Missouri National Guard members helped build a sandbag levee on the Mississippi River in Clarksville, Mo.
(The Wall Street Journal)- Communities in six states along the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries were hoping for a dry spell as heavy rains and melting snow threatened to keep rivers at uncomfortably high levels this week.
The U.S. Coast Guard said surging waters had caused 114 barges to break loose just south of St. Louis on Saturday night, prompting a shutdown of a 15-mile stretch of the Mississippi.
Officials said they will close a 3½-mile stretch of the Illinois River to boat traffic on Monday due to high water. Travel was restricted on Sunday.
Two deaths in Indiana and one in Missouri last week were blamed on flash flooding.
In Rock Island County, Ill., the Mississippi wasn't a worry yet, but the Rock River had reached record levels, said Jerry Shirk, director of the county's emergency-management agency. "We're finding water in places that water has never been before," he said.
In Barstow, Ill., a town of 200 people, roads had washed out and residents were being evacuated to shelters."They've given up the fight," said Mr. Shirk. Other towns were still placing sandbags around roads and bridges in hopes the river would begin receding.
National Weather Service officials said Sunday several river regions were at "record flood territory," and while rivers in many locations were close to cresting, additional rain over the coming days could prevent them from receding quickly.
Also, experts worried melting snow in Minnesota would send more water south. "The rain doesn't bother us. It's the stuff we're going to get from up north," said David Keith, the emergency management official in Missouri's Lewis County.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it distributed some 375,000 sandbags as of Sunday, with a million more on hand. Army Corps spokesman Mike Petersen said officials advised staying off flooded roads or bridges. "Even if it doesn't look like much water, it can carry a car right off," he said.