'There's more water coming': Flood precautions continue through weekend

Brent Drew, right, and his son Gabe Drew, 11, volunteered to fill sandbags at Gardner Denver on Sunday. (H-W Photo/Maggie Menderski)
Posted: Apr. 21, 2013 11:33 pm Updated: May. 6, 2013 12:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

LaGRANGE, Mo. -- Sharon Sherwood chuckled sadly as she explained how the flooding Mississippi River had turned her antique shop into beachfront property.

More than 1,000 sandbags lay bunkered around Antiques and More as water from the river rolled up toward the storefront in LaGrange, Mo. Her good humor and a supportive network of volunteers had helped prepare her for the worst, and so far, the flood had only leaked water into her basement.

Other property owners hadn't fared so well.

Water surrounded The Kountry Kream Shoppe, the LaGrange Post Office and at least a dozen homes from all sides. The Mississippi River had crested at several places, from the Quad Cities to near St. Louis, by Sunday. Various homes and business owners throughout the region had spent the weekend bracing for the worst.

"We sandbagged for two solid days," Sherwood said. "We know that there's more water coming, and it just hasn't come down yet."

Adding to concern is a forecast that calls for heavy rain Monday night and Tuesday throughout much of the Midwest. National Weather Service meteorologist Julie Phillipson said an inch of rain is likely in many places, some places even more. Rain is projected from Wisconsin through Missouri.

"That's not what we want to see when we have this kind of flooding, that's for sure," Phillipson said.

John Simon, the Adams County emergency management director, said the county has fared better than surrounding counties, because it only has the Mississippi River to manage.

The river crested at 27.75 feet on Saturday night, and Simon and his team since have assumed a monitoring role. Simon said the forecast indicates more storms Monday, Tuesday and Friday. He also expects 8-10 inches of snow water to come from the north to the region in the coming weeks.

"Our hope is over the next week and several weeks, water levels will reduce," Simon said. "Hopefully that will buy us a little bit of time."

During the lull, Simon and his team will conduct a damage assessment of the area that will contribute to whether or not this flood will receive a federal disaster declaration.

Pools of flooding have already blocked off several portions of Main Street in LaGrange, as well as Route B, which leads to the Mark Twain Casino. Phyllis Brawthen, assistant casino shift manager, said detouring customers through town using Route C hadn't deterred business. She said, if anything, the casino had seen more business than usual this weekend.

"People are still getting out while they still can," Brawthen said.

While the casino remained several yards away from the flooding, the water had overtaken the employee parking lot. The casino's neon entrance sign along with several traffic signs poked up among the flooding. One casino employee said a couple locals had taken a small boat to go fishing where the parking lot should have been.

Eight miles south, the Ayerco gas station in West Quincy, Mo. conducted business as usual less than a mile away from the river. Corrina Steele, an Ayerco employee, said she wasn't concerned about the river. She recalled the safety plan Ayerco had utilized during the 2008 flood. The company and its vendors sent semi trucks to gut the store of all merchandise and equipment.

"Within eight hours, there wasn't anything left in this store," Steele said.

She anticipated that if the levee breaks, Ayerco will follow a similar procedure. In the meantime, the station intends to stay open.

Across the river, Congressman Aaron Schock spent Sunday afternoon visiting communities facing high levels of water. He said Quincy's infrastructure had well-prepared the city for flooding.

"Quincy's in great shape, not because you don't have a rising river, but because you've built significant infrastructure and made a significant investment in your community," Schock said. "It's why you can sleep well."

He also toured Beardstown on Sunday, and he estimated that community would fare well against the river, due to its strong levee district. He speculated Meredosia would need continued assistance. That area had already called upon inmate crews to help with sandbagging efforts.

"What's hit me is that communities that planned really well have fared the weather well," Schock said.

Gardner Denver, which sits outside of the local levee district, was still fortifying its land on Sunday afternoon. Jerry Ludelum, director of operations for Gardner Denver, said teams of volunteers and company employees had filled more than 125,000 sandbags by late afternoon. While this number dwarfs the 240,000 sandbags needed in 2008, the company still needed assistance from Quincy University, Quincy High School and Quincy Notre Dame students as well as troops of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts.

"We're in pretty good shape right now," Ludelum said. "It's been a great city-wide effort."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.