Mississippi to peak near major flood stage

From staff and wire reportsApril 19, 2013 

The rain has stopped, but the Mississippi River continues to rise and is expected to be near major flood stage by the middle of next week.

The National Weather Service reported Friday that the river in St. Louis reached 28.2 feet, just below flood stage. It is expect to rise during the next several days, hitting minor flood stage of 30 feet by 6 a.m. Saturday, moderate flood stage of 35 feet around midnight Sunday and a peak of 39.4 feet, just shy of major flood stage at 40 feet by Wednesday.

Several inches of rain in recent days has caused flooding on the Mississippi. It is expected to crest at many spots this weekend but remain high for several days after that.

The latest analysis from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District estimates that the Mississippi River will crest Tuesday afternoon in the greater St. Louis area. In St. Louis, the river is expected to reach 38 feet, 8 feet above flood stage. The Mel Price Lock and Dam in East Alton is expected to reach 33 feet, 12 feet above flood stage, by Tuesday afternoon. The Kaskaskia River in Vandalia was forecast to crest Friday.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Petersen said the Corps does not anticipate closing the Mel Price Lock and Dam in East Alton or Lock and Dam 27 near Granite City, but the Corps will close two locks and dams up the river in Clarksville, Mo., and Winfield, Mo. He also said the Kaskaskia Lock and Dam in Randolph County may have to be closed.

"We will have to shut those down to protect the equipment from flood waters," Petersen said. "Doing that means once flood waters crest, we will open them back up pretty quickly. We may have to do close the lock and dam at the Kaskaskia River (Saturday) night. It's not definite, but it's looking pretty likely."

Further upriver, the fast-rising water forced the closure of the Quincy Memorial Bridge, which connects Quincy, Ill., and West Quincy, Mo., on Friday afternoon. Champ Clark bridge at Louisiana, Mo., will close at noon Saturday as the river is rising near the eastern approach to the bridge.

This recent flooding is a stark contrast from drought conditions that threatened to bring Mississippi River traffic to a halt during the fall and winter, when the river neared the all-time low depth of 6.2 feet below normal set in 1940. That level left only about 9 feet of water in the river channel at some spots, the minimum needed to allow barge traffic to get through.

The low-water levels caused emergency dredging to be undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as expedited rock removal at Thebes and Grand Tower, south of St. Louis. Illinois American Water had to extend its intake pipes toward the middle of the river because the water level threatened to interrupt the water supply.

The National Weather Service's forecast does not include anymore rain this weekend in the St. Louis metro area. The next chance of rain in the region could come by Monday night -- the forecast is calling for a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms. A 70 percent chance of thunderstorms are forecasted in the region on Tuesday.

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