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Fight ongoing to save Prairie du Rocher levee

  • The Chester bridge and Highway 51 disappear into the water as the roadway approaches McBride, Missouri.

    The Chester bridge and Highway 51 disappear into the water as the roadway approaches McBride, Missouri.
    Courtesy of Joggerst Aerial Photography/Used with permission

  • One of several piles of sandbags stacked in Prairie du Rocher filled by dozens of area volunters for use in fighting flood waters near the levee.

    One of several piles of sandbags stacked in Prairie du Rocher filled by dozens of area volunters for use in fighting flood waters near the levee.
    Holly Kee photo

  • The Chester riverfront and the swollen Mississippi River.

    The Chester riverfront and the swollen Mississippi River.
    Courtesy of Joggerst Aerial Photography/Used with permission

  • From near Kaskaskia Island, looking toward St. Mary, Missouri.

    From near Kaskaskia Island, looking toward St. Mary, Missouri.
    Courtesy of Joggerst Aerial Photography/Used with permission

  • A dozen members of the Illinois National Guard arrived in Prairie du Rocher on Saturday to assist with sandbagging efforts.

    A dozen members of the Illinois National Guard arrived in Prairie du Rocher on Saturday to assist with sandbagging efforts.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Several area roads are closed or limited to local traffic only due to flooding.

    Several area roads are closed or limited to local traffic only due to flooding.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Rising waters on the Mississippi River at Chester have engulfed the truck bypass below the railroad tracks near Ferry Street.

    Rising waters on the Mississippi River at Chester have engulfed the truck bypass below the railroad tracks near Ferry Street.
    Holly Kee photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 6/12/2019 10:21 AM

RANDOLPH COUNTY -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday that the Mississippi water levels have dropped six inches, good news for the volunteers who have been sandbagging the "sand boils" on the levee near Prairie du Rocher.

As well, no evacuations have been ordered yet, said Randolph County Public Information Officer Larry Willis. But he did confirm that several families have voluntarily evacuated.

Officials from various levels of government are keeping a close eye on levees along the Mississippi River at Monroe and Randolph counties where up to two feet of rain has falled.

On June 7, the Randolph County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution that would allow emergency management officials to cut a hole in the levee located between Prairie du Rocher and Fort Chartres, in the event that the the Monroe county levee, further upstream, fails.

The cut will re-channel river water away from Prairie du Rocher. The last time a cut was made in the levee was the historic flood of 1993.

However, if a cut has to be made, seven families would be directly affected and have to evacuate, Willis said. At least two of the seven already have left, he said.

In a news release over the weekend, Prairie du Rocher-Modoc Levee District Commissioner Mark Laurent said cutting the levee and evacuating residents would be a last resort.

"But we have to be ready for it," he said.

An evacuation plan has been readied and will be implemented if necessary.

While officials don't believe the rising waters will spill over the levee, the real problem is that the levees have been saturated with water for nearly 90 days.

"As the water lays there," said Willis, "it starts eroding from the bottom. The concern is that the levee will just fall."

Volunteers and a dozen National Guard members were on hand Saturday to help sandbag a large "sand boil" on the levee just north of Fort Chartres. Sand boils are water erupting through weak spots in the levee soil, damaging the structural integrity of the levee. The water rising quickly to the surface creates the appearance of boiling water.

"They are really expecting more sand boils to develop on that levee," said Willis.

Cindy Jones was one of several volunteers working in the rain on Saturday. Jones, who is president of the American Legion Auxiliary, said there have been dozens of volunteers helping.

"I came here to help," she said. "I was going to help sandbag but the need was in here."

The "here" was at the Legion where people had dropped off food and bottled water to feed those helping with the sandbagging effort.

Meanwhile, Willis said that sandbagging efforts could not keep up with the rising water so officials decided to call in the Luhr Brothers, a company out of Columbia, Missouri, to help.

"They brought is equipment barges and have been hauling in rock, limestone, and sand," he said.

Officials did get some good news Monday morning. A report from the Army Corps of Engineers said the river has dropped six inches. He added that I-55 from the floodgate to Fort Chartres is dry, which is good news.