SE Missouri city braces for high water

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO (KAIT) – As the Mississippi River continues to rise, officials in the city of Caruthersville are trying to prevent water from flooding the town. Troops with the Missouri National Guard have been on the ground in Caruthersville for nearly a week, building a secondary retaining wall 30 feet behind the existing flood wall. According to Charles Davis, Chief Engineer of the St. Francis Levee District of Missouri, the temporary retaining wall will extend the length of the flood wall.

"When and if the water does come over the flood wall, they can catch it, channel it down to the lower end of the wall and pump it back into the river," said Davis.

Staff Sergeant Mark Welker with the HAC 140th Engineer Battalion out of Cape Girardeau said the current mission is to fill 50,000 sandbags. Those sandbags could be used to raise the temporary wall even higher if needed.

"That's our goal is to catch any splash water. It's not designed to actually hold any river main water. It's just what comes over the top of the 50 foot wall," said Welker. "We're building a secondary levee behind it just to catch the splash water. Our goal is to get it 9 foot wide, three foot high, hopefully by the end of today. By tomorrow, we'll be covering it with some plastic and then we'll get some pumps in and get ready to prepare to pump the water out."

"We have a staging area in the very back where usually the 18-wheelers park. It's secure. It's well lit at night. They have stock piles of sand where the sandbags are going, the 50,000 sandbags," said Davis.

Meanwhile, as the National Guard continues to fill sandbags, many residents are rushing to pack their belongings.

Mark McCaig spent his Tuesday afternoon packing the kitchen table, clothing, couches and everything else he owns into his truck and trailer. He's temporarily storing it in a facility in Kennett.

"I got guns from my dad and grandparents and stuff. I don't want to lose none of that," said McCaig. "If it comes over the sea wall, there's going to be a lot of people lose their stuff and I don't want to be one of them."

"I don't have flood insurance. I do have homeowners insurance, but not any flood insurance. As a precaution, I wanted to get my stuff so I'll have it," said McCaig.

Fire Chief Charlie Jones with the Caruthersville Fire Department said many residents have been asking what they should do in case an evacuation order was given.

"We're constantly getting calls in reference to where people need to go. We have several areas in the county set up a shelter. We'll be doing that tomorrow and have everything in place in case evacuation word should go out," said Jones. "We're just thankful that they're here to help, and any resource we need from the state, they'd been very good to help us out."

As of Tuesday morning, the Mississippi River was nearly 46 feet high. It's predicted by the National Weather Service to crest at 48.9 feet. Previous reports had the river cresting at 49.5 feet.

Click here to track current river conditions.

"They brought in a lot that have already been prefilled. The Corps of Engineers is furnishing quite a few for us too," said Davis. "Once they get this in place, then if they do raise the crest of the river, they'll have to adjust the height of the wall that they're constructing."

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