Friday, 20 June 2008

Some farmers devastated by flooding; others brace for what might come

CANTON, Missouri: Looking out from the highest hill in this town, it suddenly seemed that there were two rivers: the Mississippi, of course, and now a new river, a nameless renegade that had appeared out of nowhere on Wednesday when the Mississippi's waters broke over a levee near the tiny hamlet of Meyer, Illinois, and surged over tens of thousands of acres of farm fields.The runaway river was gruesome news for the farmers and the residents — about 100, the authorities said — near Meyer and in other towns near where more than 20 levees have overflowed so far, creating their own bodies of water during this week's flooding along the upper Mississippi. Around Meyer, part of a region of endless fields of soybeans, corn and cattle, state conservation police officers rode door to door in boats to ensure that everyone had left, and flew over in a helicopter, scanning for anyone stranded.So it went all along the Mississippi on Wednesday, through Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, north of St. Louis: People marching along levees and flood walls, scanning for the slightest puddle or hint of pressure in the sand, waiting for what might come. In Quincy, Illinois, local officials raced to reinforce a levee they were worried about south of town; at stake were 100,000 acres of farmland and access to the Mark Twain Bridge. And federal authorities said they were closely monitoring more than 20 other levees they view as vulnerable, as the waters continue to rise downstream in the coming days.Around Meyer, farmers were devastated. "That's all been lost, and it's not going to be replanted this season," said Gerald Jenkins, general manager of Ursa Farmers Cooperative, not far from Meyer. One of the cooperative's grain elevators, in Meyer, was swamped, Jenkins said, another at risk.Worse, Jenkins said he feared that so many fields under water would mean not much grain for the cooperative to sell come the fall harvest. "It's a very sickening feeling," he said.

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