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Midwest has long wait for floodwaters to recede

OLIVE BRANCH, Ill. -- Floodwaters are the enemy along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

The water is receding in some places, but rising in others, as 23 Illinois counties have been declared disaster areas.

More than 125 properties in Alexander County, one of the poorest counties in Illinois, are flooded. David Willis owns three of them -- the Mississippi River is at his front door.

"Thirty years ago, this didn't happen," Willis told CBS News while touring the flood damage by boat.

After a flood in 2011, Willis was one of the people living in a flood zone who accepted a state buyout and agreed to leave.

He's still waiting for the money.

"Four years, seven months probably, haven't heard a word," Willis said.

Willis had the money to move away and wait for the state to reimburse him. Retired truck driver Richard Johnson turned down the offer.

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Hundreds of properties are flooded in Alexander County, Illinois.

CBS News

"I told my wife, 'We can't afford to move,'" Johnson said. "You just can't up and move like that."

Johnson says he doesn't have the money to start over.

The median income in Alexander County is just under $27,000 a year -- less than half of the state's median income.

As for Willis, whether or not he gets the money, he's has made up his mind and won't be back.

"Nope. Because of that," Willis said, pointing.

"That" is the levee which was breached by floodwater that started further north and killed 25 people in Illinois and Missouri.

It may be two years before the breach is repaired. It could be two weeks before the flood areas are dry. But the water is receding, going back into the Mississippi which is above flood stage from Illinois to Louisiana.