This aerial shows a break in the Indian Grave levee caused by flood waters from the Mississippi River north of Quincy Illinois, Wednesday, June 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) Courtesy of embarq.com
OAKVILLE, Iowa (AP) — As floodwaters take aim at the tiny towns lining the Mississippi River, the heartland ethic of neighbors helping neighbors is proving to be a potent force against the rising water.
Volunteers up and down the river in Illinois and Missouri joined sandbagging operations in the frantic effort to contain the Mississippi as forecasters predicted near-record crests from Quincy, Ill., to Winfield, Mo. Storms and flooding across six states this month have killed 24 people, injured 148 and caused more than $1.5 billion in estimated damage in Iowa alone — a figure that's likely to increase as river levels climb in Missouri and Illinois. As the rivers rise, these modest towns survive because neighbors look after each other, and the people reinforcing the levees are business owners, farmers and fellow church members who have lived there for years. Federal officials predicted as many as 30 more levees could overflow this week, leaving industrial and agricultural areas vulnerable but sparing major residential centers. So far this week, 20 levees have overflowed.
At least 10 have been topped in Illinois and Missouri in recent days, including two south of tiny Gulfport, Ill., that threatened to swamp 30,000 acres of farmland near the evacuated town of Meyer, Ill.
A 280-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Fulton, Ill., and Winfield, Mo., is expected to remain closed for at least 10 more days because of flooding. As many as 10 tows — each with as many as 15 barges — were believed stuck on the upper Mississippi River.
Residents in and around Winfield were urged to evacuate their homes after another levee breach Wednesday night.