ST. LOUIS (AP and KMOV.com) — A wall of rocks and sandbags on Monday protected scenic Clarksville, Missouri, from the surging Mississippi River as spring flooding swamped fields, threatened homes and temporarily shut down a bridge connecting Missouri and Illinois.
Heavy rain over much of the Midwest on Saturday caused another spike in water levels along the river and its tributaries, especially in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.
So far, Mississippi River flood damage is far less severe than March flooding along the Missouri River in Nebraska, southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri, where hundreds of homes were damaged. Still, several Mississippi River communities were battling to stay dry.
Clarksville, a 440-resident community 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of St. Louis is known for its antique shops and artist galleries operating out of 19th century brick storefronts. The town sits square along the Mississippi, unprotected by a levee largely because town leadership doesn't want to obstruct the view of the river, and has been through many floods.
As they've done so many times before, Clarksville residents and other volunteers built a makeshift wall around downtown, though this time, they started with a 6-foot layer of rocks as the base, with sandbags on top of the rocks. The river was expected to crest Monday about 9 feet (2.7 meters) above flood stage, making it the seventh-worst recorded flood in Clarksville. A downtown park on the other side of the makeshift levee was under water, and several homes beyond the rock and sandbag protection also were threatened.
In nearby Louisiana, Missouri, the flood briefly forced closure of the Champ Clark Bridge that connects Missouri and Illinois because water was lapping near the Illinois entrance to the bridge Sunday night. The closure created a hardship for commuters because the next nearest river crossing is at Hannibal, Missouri, 27 miles (43 kilometers) to the north.
But by Monday morning the river had crested, the bridge deck was clear, and the Louisiana bridge was reopened, Illinois Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jessie Decker said.
Down river in Kimmswick, crews built a temporary levy at the corner of Mill Street and Front Street out of soil that will be covered in plastic and topped with sandbags. City officials were confident their efforts would keep the floodwaters of the Mississippi River out and businesses open.
"We are experienced now at flood control. We love it, we like to live out here because we have good neighbors, good people. We'll get through it again," said Ruth Galayda, who lives nearby.
Precautionary sandbags were added to the top of a levee at Foley, a tiny town about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of St. Louis. Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Jim Sharp said the river was expected to get close to the top of the levee and volunteers have been walking the levee to make sure it's holding.
"We haven't had anything over the top," Sharp said. "We haven't had a breach. We haven't had a failure anywhere."
The river was causing other problems, too. In St. Louis, the route for the Go St. Louis marathon and half-marathon had to be changed. The two runs combined were expected to draw about 15,000 participants on Sunday, and the original finish line was along the Mississippi near the Gateway Arch. That road is underwater, so the run ended elsewhere in downtown.
Because of the river’s high level and swift current, much of the barge traffic through St. Louis has been temporarily halted and riverboat cruises that leave from the arch have been suspended till at least next week.
The severe flooding from last month in northwest Missouri may have claimed a life. The Platte County Sheriff's Department is investigating after a 61-year-old man's body was found Friday near an overturned boat in a flooded area not far from Bean Lake. The victim's name has not been released.
Authorities in several flooded areas where water was receding warned that danger still exists. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, an intoxicated man was rescued from the Big Sioux River late Friday after police heard him yelling for help. Rescue crews used a ladder to get down a 12-foot retaining wall and a rope to pull the man to safety. He was treated for exposure.