Levee breaks near Winfield

June 19, 2008

Clarksville, MO, which is upriver from Winfield

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
06/19/2008

UPDATED, 7:12 a.m.

WINFIELD, Mo. — Floodwaters punched a 150-foot hole in a Winfield levee last night, and firefighters spent hours in the dark going door-to-door to warn residents in one subdivision that water was coming faster than expected.

Bill Byram, assistant chief and fire marshal of the Winfield-Foley Fire Protection District, said the levee just east of Winfield along Pillsbury Road broke about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday. Water was quickly flowing toward a second levee, and the National Guard was fortifying that with sandbags.
About 2 a.m. today, Byram noticed that water was coming up Highway N, north of Foley, at a fairly fast pace. It was heading west into Winfield Acres, a subdivision just outside the city limits.

“Water was coming to town faster than we thought,” he said.

So by 3 a.m., Byram had ordered firefighters to knock on doors of about 40 homes and wake up residents in a voluntary evacuation.

Some said they wanted to stay. But about half decided to go.

“They started loading up right then. They didn’t realize it was coming so soon,” he said.

For those who stay, Byram said the fire crews have boats ready for rescue efforts.

Click here for map of floods in MO

OUR EARLIER STORY

By Joel Currier
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

PORTAGE DES SIOUX — Winona Cissell isn’t worried. She’s seen it all before.

She says her cousins took her in when the 1993 flood forced her out of her house on Main Street.

But at 96, she says she has outlived her cousins and has no plans of abandoning her home unless this spring’s high-water mark turns her living room into a muck-filled aquarium.

“I’ve been through a lot,” she said Wednesday as water lapped onto her driveway. “I don’t think it’s going to get that high this time.”

In towns such as Portage des Sioux and West Alton, living by the Mississippi River this week means living on the edge. Surging floodwater breached two levees in western Illinois and spilled over levees in Lincoln County, where another levee breached late Wednesday.

The river is expected to crest Monday at 31.2 feet in Grafton, which officials say is the closest measure for Portage des Sioux. At that level, water could cover sections of Portage Road and block access to the town. Volunteers filled 6,000 to 8,000 sandbags to protect stretches of Portage Road, where minor flooding is expected over the next few days.

Officials in St. Charles County, however, were optimistic that no major population areas would see flooding after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowered some of its crest predictions slightly Wednesday, in part because of the two levee breaches about 45 miles south of Gulfport, Ill.

The levees surrounding West Alton held Wednesday and water levels stayed about 2 feet below the top, according to Alderman Beth Machens. But officials planned to watch the river closely. “It’s really day-by-day,” she said.

Serious flooding struck Lincoln County when floodwater broke through a levee Wednesday night just east of Winfield along Pillsbury Road. The county’s emergency operations center said the breach was 150 feet wide and water was quickly flowing toward a secondary levee, but would not affect sandbagging efforts under way at that levee.

Lincoln County authorities urged residents east of Highway 79 to evacuate their homes and go to the Winfield High School shelter or seek higher ground immediately. Hundreds of homes in the area were threatened as water continued rushing over levees near Winfield, Elsberry, Foley and Old Monroe, but it was unclear late Wednesday how many were affected by the breach.

Earlier in the day, water was rushing into farm fields east of Highway 79 and was expected to flood several other roads in the area. Nearly 190 National Guardsmen patrolled the region Wednesday, fortifying levees, checking on residents and guarding against the threat of looting, Andy Binder, spokesman for the county emergency management department, said.

Volunteers had filled about 25,000 sandbags by Wednesday, Binder said, but more help is badly needed to fill 175,000 more.

Sandbagging also continued Wednesday in Clarksville and Louisiana, Mo., where Fire Chief Mike Lesley said the man-made walls of sandbags were holding strong. Volunteers in Clarksville this morning will begin building two 200-foot-long walls of compacted mesh and sand along one of Clarksville’s main thoroughfares, said Mike Russell, the city’s emergency management director. The river there is expected to crest Saturday at a record-breaking 37.7 feet, just above the 1993 level. Russell said volunteers will not stop sandbagging until the river drops.

Gov. Matt Blunt toured the levee in Hannibal and met with volunteers Wednesday. The river is expected to crest there at 31.3 feet Friday evening but officials say they expect the levee and floodwall to protect the town. The record is 31.8 feet set in 1993.

The Associated Press and Leah Thorsen of the Post-Dispatch provided information for this story.

jcurrier@post-dispatch.com | 636-255-7210

Portage De Sioux is visible from the roof of our house. Fortunatley, we are considerably higher on the bluff, than Portage, which is in the valley. One of my favorite fishing sites will be gone this weekend. Prayers for all involved.

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