Midwest braces for more flooding

BY PJ HELLER | FREDERICKTOWN, MO | May 15, 2002



"We're in trouble if we get a big rain"

—Phil Thompson


Residents in southeast Missouri scurried Wednesday to mop up and clean up from raging floodwaters that inundated the region as forecasters predicted more heavy rains to return later in the week.

"If you've got problems now, you should continue taking precautions," said Dale Bechtold, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Bechtold said another 1 to 3 inches of rain, along with hail and high winds, could hit the region tonight through Friday. With the ground already saturated and rivers swollen, more flooding was expected.

At least eight storm related deaths have been reported in the last week. One person was missing and presumed drowned.

The Mississippi River was expected to crest in St. Louis at 38 feet - about 8 feet above flood stage - well below the nearly 50 foot crest in the "great flood" of 1993. Other rivers were also expected to crest above flood stage Thursday.

The storm, which dumped up to 8 inches on Missouri, Indiana and Illinois, flooded homes, schools, businesses and swamped farmlands. The high water forced roads and bridges to close.

Missouri Gov. Bob Holden has asked federal officials to consider agricultural disaster aid for area farmers.

The flash flooding in Missouri came on the heels of tornadoes which struck the area late last month. Of the five counties declared federal disaster areas because of the tornadoes four were also affected by the recent flooding. Those counties were Bollinger, Carter, Butler and Madison.

Unmet needs committees, including members of the faith-based community, have been formed in each of those counties, reported Tom Davis, a professional disaster response and recovery liaison (DRRL) covering the Midwest with Church World Service.

He said faith-based organizations have either responded to the area or were sending contributions to help in the recovery efforts. Among those making contributions or grants will be Church World Service and Lutheran Disaster Response in Missouri.

Groups involved in recovery efforts include Lutheran Disaster Response, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, UMCOR and the Salvation Army, Davis said.

Residents, meantime, were bracing for more rain. Sandbag operations were under way in some towns.

"We're in trouble if we get a big rain," said Phil Thompson of tiny Allenville, Mo., which was accessible only by boat or walking over a railroad trestle. Roads were expected to be impassable for the rest of the week.

"It could get serious in a heartbeat," added resident Terry Ross.

Across the river in Thebes, Ill., pastor Jim Monahan of the Apostolic Lighthouse Church is hoping that the coming weekend storms will not be a repeat of 1995, when his church has 5 feet of water in the basement.

"I've caught fish off the church steps before," he said.


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