The Herald Bulletin

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April 23, 2013

River views trump permanent flood protection

CLARKSVILLE, Mo. — Her Missouri hamlet soon to celebrate its 200th birthday, Mayor Jo Anne Smiley embraces Clarksville's perilous place along the Mississippi River, never mind that that the waters again threaten to wipe it and its potpourri of specialty shops off the map.

In places like Clarksville and the Illinois town of Grafton just across the river, it's always been the clear views of the Mississippi drawing the tourists, unobstructed by a permanent levee. But that's left both communities north of St. Louis vulnerable.

By Monday, the rain-swollen river strained a hastily erected makeshift floodwall in Clarksville, creating two trouble spots that volunteers were scrambling to patch — as well as build a second sandbag wall to catch any water weaseling through.

But though the Mighty Mississippi is starting to recede, another batch of rain threatens to push it back up. A swath from Oklahoma through Michigan is forecast to get an inch of rain — in some cases slightly more — through Tuesday. The National Weather Service said some river levels again could rise, blunting their slow retreat.

Mark Fuchs, a National Weather Service hydrologist, said the latest dousing could be especially troubling for communities along the Illinois River, which he said is headed for record crests.

"Along the Illinois, any increase is going to be cause for alarm, adding to their uncertainty and, in some cases, misery," he said late Monday afternoon.

Last week's downpours brought on sudden flooding throughout the Midwest, and high water is blamed for at least three deaths. Authorities in LaSalle, Ill., spent Monday searching for a woman whose van was spotted days earlier near a bridge over the flooded Illinois, and a 12-year-old boy was in critical condition after being pulled from the Big River near Leadwood, Mo., about 65 miles south of St. Louis, after floodwaters swept him away as he tried to walk across a bridge.

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