Historic flooding threatens IL town

Evacuations ordered as water continues to rise in Cairo

CAIRO, Ill. (UPI) | May 1, 2011



"This is going to be the biggest amount of stress that these levees have been put under since we started the construction in 1928."

—Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, Army Corps of Engineers


Cairo, Ill., was nearly deserted Sunday after the mayor called for an evacuation as high waters threatened to swamp the town at the state's southern tip.

The danger to the 2,800 residents is from a highly stressed levee at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers with more rain in the forecast.

The order to evacuate came after a meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' commander of area flood-control operations and other officials to consider whether to deliberately breach the Birds Point levee to relieve pressure at Cairo and elsewhere, the Southeastern Missourian reported.

Of major concern is a large "sand boil" -- an effect of excessive water pushing up through the ground, the newspaper said.

"This is the biggest sand boil we have ever laid eyes on," said Tom Morgan, the Cairo area commander for the Corps of Engineers.

Corps Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh said the floodwaters at Cairo are at historic levels and are expected to surpass 60 feet by Tuesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

"That's not just putting pressure here in Cairo, but the entire system is being put under pressure," Walsh said. "This is going to be the biggest amount of stress that these levees have been put under since we started the construction in 1928."

With federal appellate court approval Saturday, the Corps of Engineers moved barges loaded with 265 tons of liquid explosives into position near the levee, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The decision whether to blow a 2-mile-wide hole in the levee and flood about 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland where about 200 people live is up to Walsh, but blasting hadn't begun early Sunday.

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