Record crests approach on Illinois, Mississippi

Volunteers Brandon Brown and Janice Sula work together to fill sandbags at the Street Department in Hannibal, Mo., on Tuesday, May. 28, 2019. About 30 sandbaggers worked through all of Tuesday to help fight against the rising Mississippi River. | H-W Photo/Katelyn Metzger
Katelyn Metzger 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 28, 2019 4:40 pm

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Sandbags that went up in Hannibal on Tuesday morning were tested as rain fell and the river rose higher, backing up flood waters along Bear Creek during the afternoon.

"We had 36 volunteers show up to fill sandbags. We suspended operations about 2:30 p.m. as rain pushed into the area," said Mary Lynn Richards of the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department.

Daniel Miller, a math teacher at Hannibal High School, brought his daughters, ages 8 and 5, with him to help fill sandbags.

"This year is crazy. I grew up on a farm just south of LaBelle and I've seen it flood, but nothing like this," Miller said.

Volunteers were asked to assemble at 8 a.m. Wednesday to continue building a wall around the city's street maintenance department at 701 Warren Barrett Drive.

Levee district officials up and down the Mississippi River who weathered previous high river crests this year are casting a wary eye at the skies and at levees that have been saturated for a long time.

Early Tuesday afternoon the Mississippi River at Quincy was at 26.26 feet and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was forecasting a crest of 29.5 feet on Friday -- even if there was no further rain. That would represent the third highest crest on record, eclipsing the 28.9 foot level on April 25, 1973.

The only higher historic crests were observed when the river hit 30.80 feet on June 18, 2008 and 32.13 feet on July 13, 1993.

The approaching peak also would become the third 2019 crest in the top 10. The first occurred on March 31, when the river reached 25.67. The second was on May 3, when the river reached 28.78 feet.

Hannibal's river level was 26.34 at that time and also was forecast to crest at 29.5 feet late Friday or early Saturday.

The Illinois River also was rising, with levels at 24.74 at Valley City and 41.79 at Florence.

"I've never seen a year like this. In six months we've had three major crests on the Illinois River," said Blake Roderick, executive director of the Pike-Scott Farm Bureau.

"It's a scary scenario, because if this forecast holds the river would be at record levels in some places."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 25 percent of the Illinois corn crop has been planted this year. Last year at this time it was about 95 percent planted.

Adams County Emergency Management Director John Simon said levee district officials on the Mississippi River also are considering whether to do more sandbagging.

"They've got patrols on all the levee systems, and they're looking at what to do next," Simon said.

The Quincy Memorial Bridge and the Champ Clark Bridge at Louisiana, Mo., both have closed due to rising water levels. Both bridges had been closed earlier in the month, but reopened when levels went down. However, with frequent rains the rivers are cresting again.

Roderick said the Champ Clark Bridge will probably be closed for at least two weeks, causing extensive detours for people who need to travel back and forth between Illinois and Missouri.