'Marketplace' Report: Red Cross Out of Money
ALEX COHEN, host:
This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand. Two more levees failed today along the Mississippi River in Illinois, and that sent a cascade of water over thousands of acres of farmland. The flooding that began in eastern Iowa has already caused more than 1.5 billion dollars in damage, and now, a steady surge along the Mississippi continues to move south toward St. Louis.
COHEN: Communities in northeast Missouri are deciding whether to try to hold back the water or head for safety. People in this part of the country have seen record floods before. From member station KWMU in St. Louis, Adam Allington reports.
ADAM ALLINGTON: The only thing between Linda Coke's(ph) house and the creeping flood water is a couple hundred yards of Mississippi River bottom land cornfield. By late yesterday, water had topped the agricultural levee in Lincoln County, Missouri. The family has seen this drill before.
Ms. LINDA COKES (Missouri Resident): Right now, we are trying to take the basement windows out, so that it would be easier for the water to come in. And so that we can save the windows, so we can put them back.
ALLINGTON: The Cokes nearly lost everything in what's commonly known as the Great Flood of '93. Across the yard, Coke's brother in law, Chester, replenishes the wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek as he sums the prospects for agriculture this way.
Mr. CHESTER (Missouri Resident): I game it will be total, total loss. There won't be nothing.
ALLINGTON: In a year that's seen record prices for crops, they'll take a loss instead.
Mr. CHESTER: We've got 2,150 acres we've got here in the bottoms that'll be under water. And we'll lose all those expenses, chemicals, fertilizer, and seed.
ALLINGTON: 1993 was called a 500-year flood. Not because it happens once every 500 years, but because the chance of a flood of that magnitude occurring in any year is approximately one in 500. Farmer Fred Burger(ph) is lucky. He'll only lose part of his fields. He's starting to wonder why there are so many big floods.
Mr. FRED BURGER (Farmer, Missouri): You know, I think people are just having a hard time grasping that there can be that much water again. We've had two 500-year floods in 15 years.
ALLINGTON: Burger blames the flooding partially on developers who build on flood plain that used to moderate the rise and fall of the river. Along this stretch of the Mississippi, crests are expected at record levels by the end of the week. With levees being topped along a 100-mile stretch, relief workers have had to focus their efforts on key areas, trying to save as many homes as possible.
(Soundbite of gas engine pumps)
ALLINGTON: Here in the tiny artist community of Clarksville, Missouri, gas engine pumps try in vain to flush water out of homes and business. The Army Corps of Engineers has built a colossal eight-foot wall around the downtown commercial district made of tens of thousands of sandbags. Erin Garrison(ph) owns a pottery store just yards from the barrier.
Ms. ERIN GARRISON (Store Owner, Clarksville, Missouri): We are feeling pretty philosophical right now. We'll either lose everything, or we are going to save it. And we are working hard to save it.
ALLINGTON: Garrison says a week ago, she was certain the town's 500 residents would lose everything. Now, she has hope.
Ms. GARRISON: We found out about this flood one week ago yesterday, and at the time, we had the first three layers of sandbags were laid out in front of this shop. And we just stepped back and said there's no way we are going to do this. We don't have enough people. All of a sudden, when the word got out, people started pouring in to this town.
ALLINGTON: In Clarksville, the rallying cry is, not like '93. Teams of Mennonite farmers, factory workers from suburban St. Louis, students, even female prison inmates have all pitched in to give the town a fighting chance. The Reverend Al Boatman, who is the priest at the Clarksville Christian Church, during the '93 flood, he says the Mississippi spilled through the front door and filled the sanctuary. He points to a faded grey line.
Reverend AL BOTMAN (Clarksville Christian Church): You can see the light stuff on the pews in were the water level was. This is the line right here. It covered all of the pews except for about the first or the last six inches, and we aren't going to have that happen again.
ALLINGTON: North of Clarksville, levees in the towns of Canton and Hannibal were the only ones that held in '93. Authorities in both town hope their levees will hold again. For NPR News, I'm Adam Allington in St. Louis.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.