Flood waters falling throughout region


<p class="p1">Flood warnings continued early this week for the Mississippi and Big Muddy rivers in Southern Illinois.</p><p class="p1">The good news was that river levels were falling and were expected to continue falling slowly through the course of the week.</p><p class="p1">In Union County, the lifting of a voluntary evacuation order was anticipated, perhaps by as soon as Wednesday morning, Jan. 6.</p><p class="p1">The falling water levels came only days after record crests were recorded on the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau and Thebes.</p><p class="p1">Union County is bordered on the west by the Mississippi River. Part of northern Union County is bordered by the Big Muddy River.</p><p class="p1">The flooding led to voluntary evacuations in the river bottomlands of western Union County.</p><p class="p1">The National Weather Service office at Paducah reported on its website that widespread heavy rainfall across the Missouri and Mississippi river basins in late December resulted in record flooding along parts of the Mississippi River. </p><p class="p1">The river fell below record levels on Sunday, but it remained in the major flooding category. </p><p class="p1">Levee breaches in Alexander County, between Cairo and Thebes, occurred over the weekend. </p><p class="p1">According to Alexander County officials, about 125 structures were flooded as of Sunday evening. </p><p class="p1">Several hundred homes were under voluntary evacuation orders in Alexander County. </p><p class="p1">Across the river in Scott County, Missouri, an agricultural levee failed. </p><p class="p1">No heavily populated areas had been directly impacted by the levee breaches as of Sunday evening, the weather service reported.</p><p class="p1">Levees in Union County during the historic flooding which began as 2015 came to a close and the new year started.</p><p class="p1"><strong>Record Crests on Mississippi River</strong></p><p class="p1">The National Weather Service reported that at Cape Girardeau, the river crested at a record 48.86 feet on Friday evening, Jan. 1.</p><p class="p1">Friday's crest broke the record of 48.49 feet, which was set during the Great Flood of 1993.</p><p class="p1">The river at Thebes crested at a record 47.74 feet at about 1 a.m. Saturday. The record had been 45.91 feet, which was set in May 1995.</p><p class="p1">"It appears a levee break caused the river to fall sharply for a brief period of time early Saturday morning," the weather service reported.</p><p class="p1">The weather service reported that as of 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4, the Mississippi River's stage at Cape Girardeau was 44.9 feet. Flood stage is 32.0 feet. The river was expected to fall to a stage of 40.9 feet by Wednesday morning, Jan. 6.</p><p class="p1">The Mississippi River's stage at Thebes was reported to be at 43.3 feet at 8 p.m. Monday. Flood stage is 33.0 feet. The river was expected to fall to a stage of 39.6 feet by Wednesday morning.</p><p class="p1">Major flooding continued early this week on the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau and Thebes.</p><p class="p1">The weather service reported that the Big Muddy River near Murphysboro was at 32.3 feet at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Flood stage is 22.0 feet. The Big Muddy is expected to fall below flood stage by early Monday morning.</p><p class="p1">Moderate flooding continued early this week on the Big Muddy River.</p><p class="p1">Gov. Bruce Rauner viewed the flood situation firsthand during a visit to Alexander County last Saturday.</p><p class="p1">Levees along the Mississippi and Big Muddy rivers in Union County held during the past week's record flooding.</p><p class="p1"><strong>Steady Improvement Early This Week</strong></p><p class="p1">"We are steadily improving," Union County Sheriff Scott Harvel said Monday afternoon.</p><p class="p1">The outlook continued to improve by Tuesday morning, the sheriff reported.</p><p class="p1">"I think things are looking good," Harvel said Tuesday morning.</p><p class="p1">Harvel said that Union County Sheriff's Office personnel have been patrolling the areas impacted by the flooding around the clock.</p><p class="p1">The sheriff said that monitoring of sand boils continued early this week in the Wolf Lake area.</p><p class="p1">(The Federal Emergency Management Agency explains in an online publication about floods that sand boils form during floods, particularly when seepage occurs beneath levees. "Underground pressure forces the water up, flooding the area until the pressure beneath stabilizes. Sand bag rings placed around the area are used to contain flooding from sand boils. Left unchecked, a sand boil can lead to levee failure.")</p><p class="p1">On the morning of New Year's Day, a work crew from the Illinois Department of Corrections Dixon Spring impact incarceration program was filling sandbags in Wolf Lake for use to contain sand boils.</p><p class="p1">Not far from where the sandbags were being filled, Wolf Lake resident Ken Verble was receiving assistance to move a pickup truck which belonged to him to higher ground.</p><p class="p1">North of Wolf Lake, Union County resident Phil Miller stopped at the Big Muddy River levee to share that he was praying for the levees to hold and protect those in the area impacted by the flooding.</p><p class="p1"><strong>Initial Advisory</strong></p><p class="p1">Union County officials began alerting residents in the bottomlands to monitor the unfolding flood situation on Dec. 29.</p><p class="p1">On Dec. 29, the Union County Sheriff's Office, Union County 911, the Union County Ambulance Service and the Union County Emergency Management Agency advised residents living in low-lying areas that were prone to flooding "to take precautions and consider evacuation until river stages fall to a safe level."</p><p class="p1">Residents were encouraged to "monitor all local news outlets, social media sites and the Union County website to stay apprised of the most current information."</p><p class="p1">County officials also noted that "all normal siren testing has been suspended. As a warning to the residents in the Wolf Lake and Ware area, in the event of a levee breach/flooding situation, the tornado sirens will be activated for a three-minute period.</p><p class="p1">"For quick evacuation, residents are urged to assemble 'items of personal need' such as medications and all forms of personal identification.</p><p class="p1">"Due to the serious flooding hazard, by the authority of the Levee District and the Union County Sheriff, Scott Harvel, all levee roads are closed to public traffic.</p><p class="p1">On Dec. 30, the sheriff's office requested that it be notified by those who planned to evacuate their residences due to the flooding.</p><p class="p1">Home owners were asked to complete a security request check form. The form was available on the Union County sheriff's Facebook page.</p><p class="p1">The form was being made available so the sheriff's office could conduct security checks of homes which had been left empty when their owners evacuated.</p><p class="p1"><strong>Voluntary Evacuation</strong></p><p class="p1">On Dec. 31, Union County authorities advised residents in low-lying areas "to voluntarily evacuate these areas immediately. Due to the most recent update by the Army Corps of Engineers flood stage predictions have increased beyond the initial forecast and will crest on (Jan. 3)."</p><p class="p1">Sheriff Harvel said that about 35 to 40 of the security request check forms had been completed and submitted to his office. He said it was likely that more people had evacuated their residences. By Tuesday, some people already were starting to move back after evacuating.</p>

<p class="p1">The Big Muddy River's level was almost at the bottom of a bridge which carries Illinois Route 3 over the river by Friday, Jan. 1. The bridge is located north of Wolf Lake. The picture was taken from the Big Muddy River levee in Union County on the morning of New Year's Day. The roads along the Big Muddy River levee, and along the Mississippi River levee, in Union County were posted as closed to traffic.</p>

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