WEST ALTON, MO (KTVI) – Drivers can travel once again drive from Alton, Illinois to Missouri over the Clark Bridge and onto Highway 67. Crews Tuesday night turned the two north bound lanes into a road that will carry traffic in both directions.
A breach of the confluence levee, close to where the Mississippi and Missouri rivers joins, has left residents scrambling for higher ground in West Alton.
The 100 foot break in the levee came Tuesday afternoon, as people living in the area were trying to shore it up with sandbags.
There are about 40 homes in the area. An official with the West Alton Emergency Management Agency reports flood waters from both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers are moving in and chasing people away.
Robin Surdyke has lived in West Alton for about year. She said, “Freaking out, I have a whole new respect for people who live near flood plains or levees it’s a totally different feeling than I ever had. Madden: You’re scared. Surdyke. Yeah, very scared.”
The family moved possession from their basement to a higher floor. The brand new backyard swimming pool was loaded into a pickup truck. Surdyke said, “Make sure it doesn’t float away”
Some people in West Alton are flood veterans. Warren Ryan has been through this drill many times before. He said, “It’s part of living near the river.”
The south bound lanes of Highway 67 are still under water.
LaMont Boykin was looking for a safer location as he packed. He said, “I’m moving my vehicle and my things to another residence. Madden: Where it’s higher and drier? Boykin: Higher and drier.”
“We were doing really well and all of a sudden it was like, ‘Stop. Just stop cuz it’s done.’ Levee broke down here at the end and it’s a big breach,” Kelly Willig said Tuesday. “It’s jumping the fields as it’s coming out through there. My dad’s shops down through there and you can stand there looking at the back door. From the time we finished was three hours and its already filled in. It’s coming up fast.”
At the BP and Mobil gas stations near the eastbound approach to the Alton Bridge on Highway 67, they were suddenly scrambling, moving the contents of their stores into trucks to be hauled to higher ground. They said they hoped things would stay dry, but they weren’t going to take any chances.
Across the river in Alton, residents couldn’t cross their own bridge into Missouri. The westbound lanes of the bridge were closed because the corresponding lanes of Highway 67 on the Missouri side are inundated with water.
Highway 100 between Alton and Grafton is also impassable. There’s essentially one way into the small river town fifteen miles north of Alton.
The Raging River Water Park nearby is closed by the high waters. The only way into the park is by ATV.
Donna Smith of the park says she worries about her 160 employees.
“They’re relying on summer jobs. They have expenses, too, and they want to get back to work.”
Residents meanwhile say the rising river is a fact of life for folks living along the Mississippi, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
Greg Boucher has lived here all his life, but says, “I don’t want to go through this again. I’m getting tired of dealing with it.”
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A SkyFOX helicopter view of the flooding near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.