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Mississippi River will now crest Friday as region battles rising floodwaters

Illinois Governor visits flooded Grafton

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker visited Grafton, Illinois located at the convergence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Mississippi is expected to crest Thursday in Grafton at 35.5 feet, less than 3 feet from the historic crest in 1993.
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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker visited Grafton, Illinois located at the convergence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Mississippi is expected to crest Thursday in Grafton at 35.5 feet, less than 3 feet from the historic crest in 1993.

The Mississippi River will crest Friday instead of Thursday, adding another day of woes to cities fending off flooding.

The National Weather Service said the river is expected to crest at 45.3 feet, a little more than three feet shy of the Great Flood of 1993 record of 49.6 feet.

On Wednesday in Monroe County, Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said a mandatory evacuation and curfew that was expected to go into effect if the river reached 46 feet has been canceled due to the lowering of the river’s crest.

This week’s rain most likely won’t have a substantial effect on the height of the river, but the National Weather Service will monitor rainfall forecasts for the weeks ahead. “It doesn’t take all that much excessive rainfall to make life miserable again,” said National Weather Service Senior Hydrologist Mark Fuchs.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker toured the flooded town of Grafton on Tuesday, speaking with Mayor Rick Eberlin, local volunteers and National Guard members. During a press conference outside of the village hall, he acknowledged the upcoming forecasts.

“We have a long road ahead of us,” he said.

Cities in Monroe, St. Clair, Calhoun and Madison counties are working to keep their communities protected. Every day more floodgates have been installed, and trespassing headaches on the levees have also proven to be an issue.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department even implemented a resident checkpoint system in flooded areas to stop trespassers.

A potential historic river crest has sandbaggers reporting to locations along the rivers in Southern Illinois. In Valmeyer, at the Rock City Development, volunteers prepared thousands of sandbags for use in Monroe county and surrounding communities.

In East Alton, where the river is expected to crest at 39.2 feet, another floodgate has been installed at Illinois 3 at Wood River Creek, according to the Alton Telegraph. It is hoped that the gate will stop some water flow from the north end of the town, protecting homes and businesses from possible flash flooding.

On Tuesday, the governor ordered an additional 200 National Guard troops specifically to the metro-east, adding to the 200 members who were activated last week. The guardsmen will help with current flooding and possible future flooding.

“The State of Illinois will use every resource at its disposal to protect our residents and our communities from devastating floods,” Pritzker said. “As we continue to strengthen our levees in west-central Illinois, we must also plan and prepare for this force of nature to move downstream to our southern Illinois communities. These soldiers will help not only bolster our current numbers on the ground, but allow us to pre-position key assets in downstream communities to prepare for what’s to come in the days ahead.”

In St. Clair and Madison counties, a group of roughly 20 guardsmen have been patrolling the levees looking for trespassers and possible problems with the levees themselves.

Madison County told citizens Wednesday to make sure they’re getting their flooding information from credible sources.

“We’ve been on rumor control for people posting information that is incorrect,” Madison County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Mary Kate Brown said, citing an instance where a woman posted incorrect information about a levee failure that was shared at least 900 times. She said the false rumor caused panic among area residents.

The Coast Guard also recently announced it would expand waterway closures on the upper Mississippi River from Alton to Gladstone due to the “extremely” high waters levels and fast-moving currents. To operate vessels on the river, operators must request permission to travel inside the closure zone.

There will be limited vessels allowed in the zone, a press release from the Coast Guard stated. The captain of the sector reviews each vessel request on a case-by-case basis.

The Kaskaskia River has been closed to recreational boating in St. Clair, Monroe and Randolph counties due to flood-related hazards., according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

More than 20 Illinois National Guard members patrolled the levees in St. Clair County in search of trespassers and possible warning signs of levee failure. 200 National Guard members have been deployed to the flooded region all together.

Over the past several days, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Missouri Department of Transportation have announced road closures due to flooding of the Mississippi River near the metro-east area.

Those include the following:

  • Illinois 108 from Eldred to Illinois 96, which includes the Kampsville Ferry
  • The Chester Bridge, which has been closed by the Missouri Department of Transportation since Sunday
  • The Levee Gates at Illinois 3/111 in East Alton
  • Illinois 100 from U.S. 67 in Alton to Illinois 16 in Jersey County
  • U.S. 67 @ IL 100 in Alton
  • Illinois 3 Truck By-Pass (Water Street) in Chester
  • IL 155 outside of Prairie du Rocher
  • Brussels Ferry
  • Kaskaskia Street in Chester
  • IL 100 in Calhoun County from just North of the Joe Page Bridge to Pearl
  • Illinois 96 from County Highway 2 to Crooked Creek Hollow Road near Mozier, Calhoun County (Illinois 96 from Crooked Creek Hollow Road north to Pike County Line is open to local traffic)
  • Illinois 3 at Mary’s River to the Jackson County line in Randolph County
  • Several roads near and in Valmeyer in Monroe County
Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.
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