- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

FENTON, Mo. (AP) — With more than a dozen people killed by floodwaters and rivers still rising, weary Midwesterners yesterday weighed not just the prospect of a sodden cleanup but the likelihood that their communities could be inundated again.

Families in some areas have been forced from their homes multiple times in the past few years, making a familiar routine of filling sandbags and rescuing furniture.

“We’ve been through this before,” said Michelle Buhlinger, who works for the school district in Valley Park, in suburban St. Louis. “We’re expecting the levee to hold up, but we don’t want to take any chances.”

Some flooded communities received much-needed sunshine on the first day of spring, but many swelling rivers were not expected to crest until the weekend in Arkansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, southern Indiana and Kentucky.

The worst flooding was from smaller rivers across the nation’s midsection. Only minor flooding was reported from major channels such as the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers.

A foot of rain fell on parts of Missouri over a 36-hour period this week, causing widespread flash flooding and swelling many rivers. Five deaths were confirmed.

Valley Park is protected by a flood levee completed in 2005, but the projected 40-foot crest there tomorrow would reach within 3 feet of the top of the levee. As a result, many homeowners, merchants and schools were moving to higher ground.

Police in Pacific were evacuating about 50 homes in low-lying areas.

In southwestern Indiana, Todd Ferguson spent three days building a sandbag wall around his sister-in-law’s Evansville home.

Pigeon Creek normally flows about 200 yards from Valerie Ferguson’s house, but the water had crept to within 10 feet and was not expected to crest until Sunday.

In 2006, the Fergusons piled more than 1,000 sandbags around their home and still sustained about $1,000 in damage.

High water also closed the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 for about four miles in central Ohio’s Licking County, state police said. The floodwaters were receding by midday.

Levee breaches in southeastern Missouri forced hundreds of residents from their homes and left many major roads impassable. The Coon Island levee broke about noon yesterday, and authorities were prepared to conduct water rescues.

President Bush declared a major disaster in Missouri on Wednesday night.

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