River crests as flood fight continues

Pictured, volunteers and National Guardsmen battle a sand boil near Reichmann Road on Sunday.

For now at least, the worst is over for flooding in the area because the Mississippi River crested Saturday night at 46.02 feet in St. Louis. 

That is the second highest crest in history behind the 49.58 feet crest in 1993.

The water level has since gone down, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reporting the river was at 44.7 feet Wednesday morning.

Monroe County Emergency Management Agency Director Ryan Weber said the focus is now on sand boils.

“We’re not having to worry about the overtopping, per se,” he said. “We’re just attacking the boils as we find them and hopefully it continues to go down. We’re not out of the woods until the water’s off the levee, but the lower it gets, the less pressure it has on it and that helps ease things. As long as it continues to go down, we’ll be in good shape.”

With the height no longer a problem, the major concern is the duration of time water has been against the levees, as the river has been above flood stage in St. Louis for over 90 days. 

There have been several sand boils, which occur when water under pressure wells up through a bed of sand, over the last few days.

Saturday morning, there was a major sand boil north of Fort de Chartres in far northwestern Randolph County. That forced some Monroe County residents south of Maeystown to temporarily evacuate.

Later that day, several sand boils of various sizes were identified in rural Columbia. By Sunday, Columbia firefighters and National Guardsmen had created sandbag rings to stop those.

Some small sand boils near Roger Schaefer’s farm on Taake Road in rural Columbia were also contained.

Monday morning, the Monroe County EMA said it was handling a few small sand boils in the Harrisonville Levee District.

Sand boils are fought by building sandbag rings around them. The goal is to build the ring higher than the water level in the river outside the levee to stop the sand boil.

Sixty-one National Guardsmen have helped with those sandbagging efforts. Shiloh supplied 47 of those people, while 14 came from Murphysboro.

Weber said he put in a request to get more guardsmen to help patrol the levee system in Monroe County to relieve levee district personnel.

The county has also received help from six Bond County Mutual Aid Box Alarm System divisions, which responded to Valmeyer with equipment for the flooding. 

A total of 10 firefighters from Shoal Creek, Greenville, O’Fallon, Breese, Carlyle, Benton, Marion and Wayne City responded and worked together to set up four tents, 40 cots, two generators and two light towers.

With the river level now going down, that help should become less necessary.  

Additionally, Weber said there are no plans for a mandatory evacuation in the Bottoms.

That, and an overnight curfew, appeared to be necessary over the weekend, but those precautions were never implemented. 

“It got to 46 feet on Saturday night, but by Sunday morning it was already below 46 feet,” Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said of why those measures did not happen. “So, it only crested for a few hours.”

The river level is projected to continue to decrease over the next few days. According to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, it is expected to be at 44 feet on Thursday. 

Major flood stage is 40 feet.

“Starting Thursday, the Corps has stated it will start to drop a foot a day, so that’s really good,” Rohlfing said. 

If that does happen, Rohlfing said he hopes to end the checkpoint system he has put in place in the area by Monday morning. Extra patrols will continue. 

To the east, the Kaskaskia River also crested at 92.28 feet but is now on its way down. Flood stage for that river is 79 feet. 

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