Midwesterners Battle Rising Rivers

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Flood waters are rising in the Midwest and forecasters say more torrential rains are on the way.

The ground has already been saturated by record snow and rain fall this year. These factors have contributed to the flash flooding that has killed 16 people. Two are still missing in the floodwaters.

The worst of the flooding has occurred in smaller rivers across the nation's midsection. Major waterways such as the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers have experienced only minor flooding.

Authorities are still assessing how much damage has been done.

President Bush declared a major disaster in Missouri Wednesday night. He has ordered federal agencies to assist state and local authorities in flooded areas.

The Sandbag Routine

Residents say they are tired of trying to deal with the water. Many have been forced from their homes several times in the past few years. Some say the filling of sandbags and trying to place furniture above possible flooding has become routine.

"Water is all the way around us probably a foot and a half deep, maybe 2 or 3 feet in some places," one homeowner said. "I have done nothing, but cry all day. All day I've cried."

The first day of Spring on Thursday brought much-needed sunshine to some flooded communities. However, many swelling rivers are not expected to crest until sometime this weekend in Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.

One river near St. Louis, Missouri may reach its highest level in history this Saturday when it is expected to crest at more than 39 feet.

"We've been through this before," said Michelle Buhlinger, who works for the school district in Valley Park in suburban St. Louis. "We're expecting the levee to hold up, but we don't want to take any chances."

Battling the Meramec

In Fenton, another suburb, Jeff Rogles volunteered with dozens of others to fill and pile up sandbags in order to try to protect downtown businesses located near the fast-rising Meramec River. The river was expected to reach more than 20 feet above flood stage at some points.

"I think we have enough volunteers out here to stave off disaster," said Rogles, 27. He says he volunteered because of his memories of the Great Flood of 1993.

In Eureka, Mo., in St. Louis County, Patrick Butler has built a wall of sandbags wrapped in plastic. He hoped his efforts would keep floodwaters out of the downtown building he rents to a screen-printing shop.

He said residents are nervous but well-acquainted with flooding in the low-lying Meramec River town.

"I think we'll have to just have a fishing tournament out in the street," he joked.

Pieces of Lives Washed Away

In Batesville, Ark., antique mall operator Marcia Weaver stood along the banks of the Spring River and watched as pieces of lives were washed away.

"There were large pieces of furniture, dressers, picnic tables from the parks. I saw a four-wheeler going down. Lots of canoes and kayaks that didn't have anybody in them," she said.

Sources: The Associated Press, ABC News

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