The Mississippi River levels at Chester are on their way up once again, creating a fresh round of anxiety for area residents who commute daily across the Chester Bridge.
The river was at 32.74 feet, 5.74 feet above flood stage, as of 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Chester gauge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was predicting the river to crest at 43.5 feet early Friday morning.
Major flood stage is 40 feet.
"At this point, the predicted crest is below when (the Chester Bridge) typically closes, but we are watching it," a Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman said in a Twitter message to the Herald Tribune on Sunday morning. "No plans to close at this time."
Missouri Highway 51, past the two gas stations on the Missouri side of the bridge, was down to one lane Sunday evening due to water on the roadway, but the bridge remained open.
The Chester Emergency Management Agency posted on its Facebook page that the Chester Bridge would close when the river reaches 40.7 feet, with the Marys River bridge on State Route 3 south of town closing at 38.1 feet.
Should the prediction come to fruition, it would be the river's fourth-highest crest in recorded history, with the Flood of 1995 (44 feet) ranking third. The New Year's Flood of last year achieved a crest of 45.99 feet on January 2, 2016 for second place, and the Great Flood of 1993 holds the record at 49.74 feet.
"It's only going to get worse before things gets better," MoDOT's spokesman said.
Chester Emergency Management Coordinator Charlie Bargman II told the Herald Tribune the area had received 7.55 inches of rain as of 1:50 p.m.
"If the barricades are up and it's posted 'road closed,' it means it's closed, do not drive around them," Bargman said. "All you are doing is putting yourself in danger and anyone that would have to rescue you in danger."
Additional rain will develop east of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and move east across southern Illinois this evening, the National Weather Service said. Heavy rainfall will only aggravate ongoing flooding, it added.
Elsewhere in the region, Jackson County EMA Coordinator Derek Misener stated he anticipated the floodgates at Cora on Route 3 at the Jackson/Randolph County line to be closed Tuesday afternoon.
"That decision is up to the levee commissioners," he said. "The plan is to wait until the last minute as they won't close it unless it's absolutely necessary."
Ardent Mills employees told the newspaper that flood preparations at their facility were completed on Saturday. The Chester plant, located along the river on Water Street, has a mark on a nearby power pole where the Flood of 1993 crested.
Water was lapping the edges of Water Street on Sunday afternoon and the road was officially closed that evening.
The Army Corps of Engineers is also predicting the Kaskaskia River at Vandalia to reach 28 feet by Tuesday, two-tenths of a foot shy of the 28.27 record set on May 8, 2002.
After a bit of a break on Monday and Tuesday, more rain is forecast to return to the area on Wednesday and last into Thursday morning.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.