Illinois levee breaks threatening homes in rural areas, that makes at least 11 levee failures so far. Rains brought floods to the region over a three-day period that began last weekend, is blamed for 22 deaths, and the cleanup could take weeks, according to OregonLive.
Search and rescue crews were still looking for five missing people — two teenagers in Illinois, two men in Missouri and a country music singer in Oklahoma. On Friday, water from the Mississippi, Meremec and Missouri rivers were largely receding in the St. Louis area.
Two major highways — Interstate 44 and Interstate 55 — reopened south of St. Louis, meaning that commuters who return to work next week won’t have hours-long detours. Some evacuees were allowed to return home.
But as the Illinois levee breaks, 500 or so people living behind the Len Small levee, which protects the hamlets of Olive Branch, Hodges Park, Unity and rural homes, were urged to move to higher ground after the Mississippi began pouring over the levee. Alexander County Board Chairman Chalen Tatum said sandbagging efforts were cut off because it was simply too dangerous for the volunteers. Far more water is to come before the Sunday crest.
“It’s going to get ugly,” he said.
In St. Mary, a town of about 360 residents 50 miles south of St. Louis, neighbors and volunteers placed sandbags around homes after a small agricultural levee broke. The Mississippi River was expected to crest there Saturday at about three feet below the 1993 record.
The main culprit in the St. Louis region was the relatively small Mississippi tributary, the Meramec River. It had bombarded communities in the far southwestern reaches of the St. Louis suburbs during the week. By Friday, it was relenting, but not before some points topped the 1993 record by 4 feet.
Two wastewater treatment plants in Illinois were so damaged by the floodwaters that raw sewage spewed into the river. A water plant closed at High Ridge.
Hundreds of people were evacuated in Pacific, Eureka, Valley Park and Arnold, and many other homes took water in Illinois from the failing levees.
Among the levee break victims were Damon Thorne, 44, and his 60-year-old mother, Linda, who live together in an Arnold mobile home park that had washed away after a small private levee proved no match for the surging Meramec. For now, the Thornes are staying in a Red Cross shelter at a Baptist church.
At least nine other Illinois levee breaks were topped by water this week, but none protected populated areas. Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet, seemed safe, despite a near-record crest prediction.