Danger Level Still High For Flood Victims In West Alton

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WEST ALTON, MO (KTVI)-- The water level is dropping but the danger level is still high for residents in West Alton, Missouri.

"The levees are very soft and the water is going down very slowly, so it is extremely important that we do as good a job when the water goes down as we did when it came up," said Missouri governor Jay Nixon, after taking an aerial tour of the flooded area around West Alton Friday morning.

At a briefing following the tour, Nixon was told that minor sand boils have been popping up in West Alton even though the water level is going down, and that the general condition of the town`s earthen levees was 'wobbly.'

"This is the second time this spring that the water has been up against the levee making it very saturated and very weak," said West Alton Emergency Management Director Gary Machens. "Every day the river is dropping roughly 10 inches to a foot so that takes pressure off. I`ll feel a lot better in about three days."

Among those meeting with the governor was St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, who reported high water in the confluence area has left 241 homes inaccessible.

"Most of the water is in the basements so the damage may not be that great, (but) it is a great inconvenience obviously," Elhmann said.

Water seeping into Tammy Clark`s basement convinced her family to get out of town until the flood threat has passed.

And based on what she`s seen, the danger still seems very real.

"I don`t feel we are safe yet," Clark said. "There are too many helicopters flying over and there are too many people keeping an eye on the levees."

Among those watching the levees is the Army Corps of Engineers.

The corps reports in St. Louis, the Mississippi river is dropping 1.5 feet a day.  Friday morning, the corps reopened the Port of St. Louis to commercial traffic, but it is still closed to recreational boaters because of all the debris in the water.

The corps says the river level at the St. Louis gauge during the crest this week was the fourth highest since they began recording it in 1861.

St. Charles County estimates between the flooding and Friday`s tornadoes, it has spent $1.4 million on sandbags, cleaning up debris and overtime for law enforcement and building inspectors, which may be enough to qualify the county government for federal assistance to cover its uninsured loses.

For the state to be declared a federal disaster area, those expenses have to top $8.2 million. Nixon said he believes that the state will be close to that level and is telling officials it is more important to be accurate than fast when tallying the costs.

"We are going to rebuild these levees regardless of the funding source," Nixon told reporters. "We are going to find the resources to make sure we can work with these local levee districts and counties and cities to make sure we are protected from the next flood event."

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