- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2008

VALLEY PARK, Mo. (AP) Residents of this Meramec River town are crossing their fingers in hopes that the community’s new earthen levee, built to withstand a 100-year flood, will pass its first big test.

The surging Meramec was expected to crest Saturday at a record 40 feet 24 feet above flood stage and within three feet of the levee’s lip.

Flood-weary residents of Missouri, Arkansas and Ohio also were fighting to save their homes after heavy rain pushed rivers out of their banks.

In addition to this past week’s rain, a lingering storm blew more snow through parts of the Upper Midwest on Saturday, a day after it canceled flights and some Good Friday services.

More than a foot of snow fell Friday in parts of southern Wisconsin and nearly as much blanketed southeastern Minnesota.

Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport was closed overnight because of the snow, and reopened late Saturday morning. About 200 people had to spend the night at the terminal, said airport spokeswoman Pat Rowe. Some outgoing flights were still canceled Saturday because planes couldn’t get to the airport Friday night, she said.

Milwaukee’s 10 inches of snow Friday brought the city’s total this season to 94.8 inches, its second-heaviest on record.

Farther east, in Ohio, Cleveland and Youngstown each had 7 inches of snow and counting by Saturday, just two weeks after the Cleveland area saw a foot of snow, the National Weather Service said.

“Everyone is pretty tired of the snow but I think most people will agree these types of storms aren’t unusual in the spring,” weather service meteorologist Steve Davis said.

At least 16 deaths have been linked to the weather over the past week, and two people are missing since their vehicles were swept away by rushing water in Arkansas.

Parts of the Midwest got a foot of rain over a 36-hour period this week, causing widespread flash flooding. The worst flooding was along smaller rivers. The Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers saw only minor flooding.

The Army Corps of Engineers expects the $49 million levee at Valley Park to hold. If it were to break or was overtopped, nearly one-third of town’s 6,500 residents could see their homes damaged or destroyed.

Authorities were taking no chances and set up a staging area of rescue trucks and stationed a boat in a school parking lot near the town.

“The center of the flood fight now moves right here to the Meramec River and southern St. Louis County and Jefferson County,” Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said late Friday.

In southern Missouri, water poured through breaches in levees and forced authorities to evacuate towns west of Cape Girardeau. At least 200 homes and 13 businesses have been evacuated in Cape Girardeau County, said emergency management director Dick Knaup.

At least 70 Missouri counties have reported flooding this week.

Rivers receded Friday in Ohio, but several areas remained under flood warnings. About 60 state roads were closed or partly blocked by flooding; crews were trying to pump water off a major route into Columbus, according to the State Highway Patrol.

Residents of the tiny Arkansas community of Georgetown along the White River were urged to leave the area Friday after forecasters said rising water would cut off their access and strand them well into next week.

“Stock up or get out. You may be there a few days,” said Steve Bays, a weather service hydrologist in North Little Rock.

Associated Press writer Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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