Those fighting floods in several communities along the Mississippi River were mostly successful Sunday despite the onslaught of water, but an ominous forecast and the growing accumulation of snow in the upper Midwest tempered any feelings of victory.
The surging Mississippi was at or near crest at several places from the Quad Cities south to near St. Louis — some reaching 10 to 12 feet above flood stage. Problems were plentiful: hundreds of thousands of acres of swamped farmland as planting season approaches; three people died; roads and bridges closed, including sections of major highways such as U.S. 61 in Iowa and Missouri and crossings at Quincy, Ill., and Louisiana, Mo.
The U.S. Coast Guard said 114 barges broke loose near St. Louis on Saturday night, and four hit the Jefferson Barracks Bridge in St. Louis County. The bridge was closed about six hours for inspection but reopened around 8 a.m. Sunday. Most of the runaway barges were corralled, but at least 10 sank and two others were unaccounted for, Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said. The Coast Guard closed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Miss., after barges hit a railroad bridge there, and about 30 barges broke free from the towboat “Captain Buck Lay.
Two of the confirmed flood-related deaths occurred near the same spot in Indiana; another was in Missouri. In all three cases, vehicles were swept off the road in flash floods. High water could be responsible for two more, both in Illinois, where a decomposed body was found Thursday in an Oak Brook creek and a body was found Saturday in the Mississippi River at Cora. Investigations continue.
Adding to concern is a forecast that calls for heavy rain tonight and Tuesday throughout much of the Midwest.