Village of 700 people in southern Illinois makes thousands of sandbags in two days

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PRAIRIE DU ROCHER, Ill. - Flooding fears Wednesday in a small town of 700 people in Randolph County. People living in Prairie du Rocher are worried about how high the Mississippi River will crest.

“I don’t want to see our town go away,” said Stephanie Bievenue, who was filling sandbags Wednesday afternoon.

“We don’t know exactly when the crest is going to stop cresting,” said Stephen Gonzalez, Commissioner of the Prairie Du Rocher Levee. “We went from 45.3' to now 46' and there is a projection of 47.3' in the future and we don’t know if it’s going to stop there or not.”

There are two levee districts in the area. One is Prairie Du Rocher and the other is Fort De Chartre. Experts said the levees are pretty strong but there is a concern for overtopping.

“If we get to 49' and it’s been up so long that the levees are getting saturated, plain and simple you know?” said Mark Laurent, Commissioner for Fort De Chartres Levee District.

Another concern is the potential for delay in response time from the local fire station due to some flooded road closures.

“Going west towards Fort De Chartres,” said Fire Chief Ryan Walker, Prairie Du Rocher Fire Department. “The gates are closed, obviously, at the creek, so we have to go around for that and that delays the time and going north of Bluff Road, that would delay response times.”

Laurent said that the village does not need any more sandbags or additional volunteers. In the meantime, the village has canceled its annual Rendezvous Festival at Fort De Chartres, which attracts close to 15,000 people. The festival is expected to return in June of 2020.

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