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Missouri Levee Holds As Flood Waters Rage

Residents' trust in their community's new levee was justified Saturday as the earthen wall protected their town from the Meramec River, bloated by heavy rain that caused flooding across the U.S. Midwest.

The Meramec crested at about midday at 37.8 feet - its record there is 39.7 feet - the National Weather Service said. That was just over 3 feet below the top of the levee.

Upstream in Eureka, the river crested several hours earlier at 40 feet, below that town's record of 42.9 feet.

The high water pushing against the other side of the Valley Park levee did not bother customers at Meramec Jack's bar and grill, where owner Tracy Ziegler was pouring cold beer Saturday morning.

Ziegler, 47, had been confident all along that the levee would hold. "I haven't even lifted my computer off the floor in the office," said Ziegler, who bought the bar in 2005, just after the Army Corps of Engineers finished the levee a few hundred yards (meters) away. "Why would they spend $50 million if they expected it to fail?" she said.

If the levee were to break or was overtopped, nearly one-third of the homes in the town of 6,500 people could be damaged or destroyed. Authorities took no chances and set up a staging area of rescue trucks and stationed a boat in a school parking lot near the town.

Flood-weary residents of Missouri, Arkansas and Ohio also were fighting to save their homes after heavy rain pushed rivers out of their banks.

At least 16 deaths have been linked to the weather over the past week, and two people are missing since their vehicles were swept away by rushing water in Arkansas.

In addition to this past week's rain, a lingering storm blew more snow through parts of the Upper Midwest on Saturday, a day after as much as a foot of snow canceled flights and some Good Friday services in parts of southern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota.

Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport was closed overnight because of the snow, and reopened late Saturday morning. About 200 people had to spend the night at the terminal, said airport spokeswoman Pat Rowe. Some outgoing flights were still canceled Saturday because planes couldn't get to the airport Friday night, she said.

Milwaukee's 12.4 inches of snow Friday brought the city's total this season to 96 inches, its second-heaviest on record.

Farther east, in Ohio, Cleveland and Youngstown each had 7 inches of snow and counting by Saturday, just two weeks after the Cleveland area saw a foot of snow, the weather service said.

Parts of the Midwest got a foot of rain over a 36-hour period this week, causing widespread flash flooding. The worst flooding was along smaller rivers. The Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers saw only minor flooding.

In southern Missouri, water poured through breaches in levees and forced authorities to evacuate towns west of Cape Girardeau. At least 200 homes and 13 businesses have been evacuated in Cape Girardeau County, said emergency management director Dick Knaup.

At least 70 Missouri counties have reported flooding this week.

Rivers receded Friday in Ohio, but several areas remained under flood warnings. About 60 state roads were closed or partly blocked by flooding; crews were trying to pump water off a major route into Columbus, according to the State Highway Patrol.

Residents of the tiny Arkansas community of Georgetown along the White River were urged to leave the area Friday after forecasters said rising water would cut off their access and strand them well into next week.

Vicksburg, Miss., Casts Wary Eye On Old Man River

As the Mississippi River continues to cause widespread flooding in northern states and create steady rises in Vicksburg, some residents are being forced to move to higher ground while others prepare for an evacuation from which they hope to be spared.

"We've been getting everything off the ground for the past two days, and moving our larger equipment to our property over the levee," said Jerry Johnson, owner of the Chotard Landing Resort on the unprotected side of Mississippi 465. "It's just kind of shut down my business."

The river at Vicksburg rose to 39.1 feet Friday, an increase of 0.7 feet from the previous day. Flood stage at the city is 43 feet. The river is forecast to rise above flood stage Wednesday, and crest at 46 feet on April 5.

A flood warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for the lower Mississippi River region, including Vicksburg.

While cresting may be more than a week away, flooding is already visible in many locations north and south of Vicksburg. The Big Black River has spilled out of its banks south of the city. A portion of Chickasaw Road is under water and impassable.

Many roads on the unprotected side of the levee off Mississippi 465 are also under water, including Ziegler Road where a row of homes on stilts have become inaccessible by vehicle.

Johnson said the road to access his resort is still dry, but expects it to be flooded by Monday afternoon when the river is predicted to rise to 41.9 feet.

"It's just about up to my driveway at the store right now," Johnson said. "Of course, my camp houses are on stilts, but my store isn't. We've got about 6 to 7 more feet coming in total, which I figure will bring at least a foot of water into the store in a week or so."