By JIM SALTER
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The fast-rising Mississippi River on Thursday neared levels unseen since a historic flood in 1993, threatening levees and forcing people living near the bulging Big Muddy to move to higher ground.
Parts of downtown Davenport, Iowa, remained under water after the river tore through a temporary barrier. Davenport has no permanent levee or floodwall. The river was within inches of its all-time high, set in 1993, and was expected to top it by Friday.
Davenport wasn’t the only community along the Mississippi experiencing a flashback to 1993, the benchmark for catastrophic flooding in much of the Midwest. Thousands of acres of farmland were already swamped, hundreds of roads shut down and two Mississippi River bridges — one at Quincy, Illinois, and one at Louisiana, Missouri — were forced to close.
Sandbagging — an almost-annual precaution in many river towns — was underway, even in places with flood protection. A levee holds back the river at downtown Hannibal, Missouri, but each day was bringing a higher prediction for the crest. Volunteers are adding sandbags to the levee just in case.
Sandbagging isn’t an option at West Alton, Missouri, because the levee there is extraordinarily long, so the 500 or so residents were being asked to voluntarily evacuate. The river is expected to crest Saturday at a level that’s half a foot higher than can be held by the town’s levee.
Gary Machens, West Alton emergency management director, and friends were busy moving farm equipment to higher ground. He was taking the whole thing in stride.
“We’ve been through this before,” Machens said. “It’s part of living in a flood plain.”
The latest round of flooding was spurred by torrents of rain, and river flooding wasn’t the only concern.
Parts of the Ozarks region of Missouri received up to 6 inches of rain Wednesday night and Thursday morning, prompting flash flooding that forced hasty evacuations in some areas.
The body of Robbie Turner, 59, of Ava, Missouri, was found Wednesday. Authorities believe he was camping alone near Ava and got caught in waters from a flooded creek.
Heavy rain in Michigan swamped homes and closed a stretch of a freeway near Detroit, where sandbags were stacked to curb flooding near canals off the Detroit River. More heavy rain through Friday morning raised concerns about additional flash flooding.