Mississippi River breaks a levee in Lincoln County

2013-04-26T17:15:00Z 2013-04-26T23:35:06Z Mississippi River breaks a levee in Lincoln CountyBy Tim O’Neil toneil@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8132 stltoday.com

UPDATED at 5 p.m. with levee break in Lincoln County.

The falling Mississippi River finally found its way through a levee Friday, breaking a secondary levee in Lincoln County to threaten some residential areas east of Missouri Highway 47.

The break on the Bobs Creek levee makes vulnerable parts of Foley and Winfield Acres, an unincorporated area east of Winfield, said Barry Nuss, spokesman for the Lincoln County Fire Proection District No. 1.

Nuss said the break was confirmed at about 4 p.m. Friday. "Flood waters are steadily rising, not rushing in," he said.

The Mississippi had been falling slowly at the Winfield Lock and Dam since cresting late Tuesday. The flood had spilled water over several agricultural levees, flooding low spots, but hadn't breached a levee until Friday.

Nuss said the break was about 150 feet in length. He said firefighters were advising residents in the vulnerable areas to consider leaving, but no evacuation was ordered.

The break presented east Foley with a second threat in one day. Water that had topped some levees during the crests had gathered overnight in low spots and rose against some homes in Foley east of Highway 79.

In St. Louis, the Mississippi was at 34.3 feet this morning, down one foot from its crest Wednesday and Thursday at 35.4 feet, or 5.4 feet over flood stage. It’s the 22nd highest flood on record at St. Louis — noteworthy mainly in contrast to the near-record lows after last year's prolonged drought.

The river is expected to fall below flood stage by Monday at St. Louis.

The river has been falling in northern Missouri, but some backwater was rising today near homes on the east side of Missouri Highway 79 in Lincoln County.

"It had been receding. It's near some houses, and we don't know how close it will get," said Foley city clerk Sandy Felty.

Barry Nuss, spokesman for Lincoln County Fire Protection District 1, said water that had washed over some agricultural levees earlier this week is pooling on low ground and rising in some areas, including Winfield. Nuss said no levee had broken, but he said the levee districts will have to wait for the Mississippi to fall further before pumping the accumulated floodwater back into the river.

"Because this water is outside the river system, we're not sure exactly how much it will go up," Nuss said.

In St. Charles County, Missouri National Guard soldiers used sandbags to bolster a levee near the Missouri Youth Soccer Association fields in St. Charles.

Across the river at Grafton, where the Mississippi and Illinois rivers meet, the crest of 29.4 feet Thursday was almost nine feet below that of the Great Flood of 1993. It had fallen about two inches by this morning.

Grafton Police Chief Chris Sullivan said some homes and businesses are flooded, but other establishments remain open and will be this weekend, as is Route 100 from Alton.

At Hardin, Ill., 20 miles north of Grafton on the Illinois River, that river was cresting today at 36.5 feet, forecast to fall slowly. The Illinois, swelled by last week’s downpours in central and northern Illinois, broke records at Peoria and other cities, but moderated as it approached the Mississippi.

Hardin village clerk Danielle Hurley said Thursday that high school students ran sandbags around a home and a business, but there were no other calls for help.

“The water’s within four feet of City Hall and it’s on my lawn at home, but we’re looking pretty good,” she said. “We think the river is at its peak.”

The crest at Hardin is six feet less than the 1993 record.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer district installed temporary pumps at its Bissell Point treatment plant and hoped to have them all working today, said spokesman Lance LeComb. Two of the plant’s three lift pumps failed Sunday, forcing the district to discharge 105 million gallons of untreated sewage daily into the Mississippi.

The district has to pump treated sewage over flood barriers when the river rises 2.5 feet over flood stage. LeComb said temporary pumps would eliminate untreated discharges. The district obtained them through emergency rental contracts not to exceed $250,000.

The falling river will make them unnecessary, but he said the district would keep them on hand until the big pumps were repaired, a project that could take time.

Renee Bungart, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement late Thursday that the agency was "currently satisfied with the steps (MSD is) taking to address the issue. The department will further evaluate the situation and their response to it, as well as the conditions included in MSD’s consent decree before making a final determination on violations or penalties."

Bungart said MSD reported the problem in a timely manner.



Tim O'Neil is a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Contact him at 314-340-8132 or toneil@post-dispatch.com

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