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Levee in Missouri holds back flooding

Snowstorms hit Upper Midwest

Flood waters from the Meramec River submerged this intersection at Route 141 and Interstate 44 in Fenton, Mo. Flood waters from the Meramec River submerged this intersection at Route 141 and Interstate 44 in Fenton, Mo. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Christopher Leonard
Associated Press / March 23, 2008

VALLEY PARK, Mo. - Residents' trust in their community's new levee was justified yesterday as the earthen wall protected their town from the Meramec River, bloated by heavy rain that caused flooding across the Midwest.

The Meramec crested at about midday at 37.8 feet - its record there is 39.7 feet - the National Weather Service said. That was just over 3 feet below the top of the levee.

Upstream in Eureka, the river crested several hours earlier at 40 feet, below that town's record of 42.9 feet.

The high water pushing against the other side of the Valley Park levee didn't bother customers at Meramec Jack's bar and grill, where owner Tracy Ziegler was pouring cold beer.

Ziegler, 47, had been confident that the levee would hold. "I haven't even lifted my computer off the floor in the office," said Ziegler, who bought the bar in 2005, just after the Army Corps of Engineers finished the levee a few hundred yards away. "Why would they spend $50 million if they expected it to fail?" she said.

Flood-weary residents of Missouri, Arkansas, and Ohio were also 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 yesterday, a day after as much as a foot of snow canceled flights and some Good Friday services in parts of southern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota.

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

Milwaukee's 12.4 inches of snow Friday brought the city's total this season to 96 inches, its second-heaviest on record.

Farther east, in Ohio, Cleveland and Youngstown each had 7 inches of snow and counting yesterday, just two weeks after the Cleveland area saw a foot of snow, the weather service 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 were overtopped, nearly one-third of the houses in the town of 6,500 people could be damaged or destroyed.

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