River reaches major flood stage, but no problems locally

Multiple roads in Monroe County, particularly in the bottoms, are closed due to Mississippi River flooding. Seen here is DD Road near Columbia. (Alan Dooley photos)

The mighty Mississippi River reached its sixth-highest level on record in St. Louis Tuesday at 40.52 feet, the highest since flooding in 1995 (41.9 feet) but still nine feet shy of the devastating Great Flood of 1993.

People in these parts, especially Valmeyer, know all too well what the river can do at 49.58 feet, the record reached 20 years ago.

Large amounts of precipitation throughout the Upper Midwest in recent weeks, combined with further storms across the region Thursday, Friday and Saturday, caused the river to rise above flood stage (30 feet in St. Louis) over the weekend and continue upward until finally cresting on Tuesday.

It appears the river is already receding, measuring at 40.26 feet on Tuesday afternoon with continued declines predicted over the next week. That is welcome news for all those living near the river.

The 40-foot mark is considered major flood stage in St. Louis.

Fortunately, the levees have held and no major incidents have been reported in Monroe County as a result of high water. The following roads — mostly in the bottoms — are currently closed to flooding, according to Monroe County EMA Director Ryan Weber: Bluff Road between HH and Hanover roads, Miles Road, C Road and DD Road.

In the eastern portion of the county near the swollen Kaskaskia River, Brickey Road and LL Road west of Beck Road are also closed.

Billie Kettler of Columbia greases bearings in one of three large electric turbine pumps at the Palmer Creek Pumping Station of the Fish Lake Levee District on Monday. The pumps push water flowing from inland down the creek back into the flood area outside the levee.

The Monroe County Board on Monday issued a Proclamation of Disaster in the county following a large storm system that dropped several inches of rain here between May 30 and June 1, flooding roadways and other areas near the Mississippi River.

The proclamation period will run until July 3.

Another local casualty of the weekend rain was the 43rd annual Rendezvous at Fort de Chartres near Prairie du Rocher, which was cancelled for the first time in its history. Heavy rains and flooded parking areas made it impossible for the site to accommodate those who regularly attend the celebration of life in the 1700s in French-controlled Illinois.

But current flooding on the Mississippi is primarily the result of rains north and west of here rather than local rains. The Mississippi River basin drains parts of 32 states and two Canadian provinces.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District has activated its Emergency Operations Center in St. Louis. Some locks on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis have also been closed as water has over- topped the gates.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District has activated its Emergency Operations Center in St. Louis. Some locks on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis have also been closed as water has over-topped the gates.

“The EOC activation allows the Corps to provide teams and resources to support local flood fighting efforts,” the Corps stat- ed in a Friday news release. “Corps personnel have contacted affected levee districts to coordinate flood fighting activities and ensure supplies such as sand bags, pumps and plastic are available if needed.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation will be monitoring state roadways for closure due to flooding.

“Travelers are advised to consider alternate routes or allow additional time to travel known flood prone areas,” IDOT stated in a news release.

Visit online at www.dot.il.gov/road/closures.txt for the latest information on roadway closures in Illinois.

To place the record 1993 flood in perspective, the river reached 47 feet on July 21 be- fore settling slightly. That was a record at that point. Then it surged again, reaching 49.5 feet on Aug. 1.

It stayed high for two months and didn’t descend below 30 feet at St. Louis until Oct. 8.

The dirt levees in the metro-east are estimated at 54 feet high. But some, like those in Monroe County, act as service roads for both maintenance needs and access to farms, so the elevation may vary slightly over time.

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