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Archive for Saturday, April 21, 2001

Towns brace for floods

April 21, 2001

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— Residents along the Mississippi continued filling sandbags and pumping water from their homes Friday as the rising river neared its crest.

"Every day's a battle," said Jamie Fox as he struggled with a large hose forcing water out of his basement in Prairie du Chien, a community of about 6,000 where the Wisconsin River flows into the Mississippi.

The Mississippi was expected to crest at Prairie du Chien at nearly 24 feet by evening, then begin to subside. National Guard engineers built a levee on the north side of the city to help protect the community.

"The Mississippi will remind us every once in a while who's boss," said Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., who toured the area Friday after being forced from his home upriver by hip-deep water earlier in the week.

Across the river in McGregor, Iowa, the town's 871 residents also waited for the Mississippi to hit its high point and decline.

"Pray for Drought," read a banner at the KwikStar gas station.

Dozens of volunteers worked under overcast skies to build a 4-foot wall of clay, sandbags and plastic to protect Main Street.

After an inch of rain overnight, a crew including prisoners from the Luster Heights Correctional Facility in Anamosa, Iowa, helped reinforce sandbag walls around storm sewers in which water could back up, said Fire Chief Dan Bickel.

Water flooded the town's treatment plant Friday morning, allowing a small amount of raw sewage into the river. The main well providing the town's drinking water was protected by sandbags, Bickel said.

Downstream in Davenport, Iowa, the largest city along the upper Mississippi lacking a flood control system, the river wasn't expected to crest at 22 feet until Tuesday.

Public Works Director Dee Bruemmer said the city should avoid major damage.

"The critical point is 22 feet. If we're under that, we'll be just fine," Bruemmer said. "But the river and Mother Nature (are) unpredictable."

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