WINFIELD, Mo. – The swollen Mississippi River burst through yet another levee Tuesday, not endangering any towns but proving to anxious Midwesterners that the high water is still a threat.
Water pouring through the new break was expected to swamp only a soccer field and a sod farm on the north side of St. Charles. There had been fears that the water would threaten a nearby mobile home park, but St. Charles Assistant Fire Chief Rich Oney said Tuesday morning that residents there would likely stay dry and did not need to leave.
Flooding from the break in the Elm Point levee will come close to only two homes, he said, and the occupants of both decided to stay put.
The break comes along the stretch of the Mississippi northwest of St. Louis where the river is forecast to start cresting Tuesday. It should remain at that high water mark for a few more days.
The constant pressure of water against overworked levees remains the primary concern in Lincoln County, just up the river from Tuesday's break. Crews used plastic sheeting and tens of thousands of sandbags to fortify the 2 1/2-mile-long Pin Oak levee, an earthen berm so waterlogged that officials have compared walking on it to being on a waterbed.
"It is still holding at this point," said Dennis Gage, the deputy director of emergency management in Lincoln County.
Federal officials have said they couldn't be sure the Pine Oak Levee would survive through the end of the river's crest at Winfield, expected sometime late Thursday. If it were to break, the river would swamp 100 homes in east Winfield, as well as 3,000 acres of farm fields, several businesses and a city ballpark.
"They have a serious condition on their hands," Travis Tutka, the Army Corps' chief of dam safety, said Monday. "This will be quite a test of that levee."
Only a handful of residents remained in east Winfield after emergency workers went door to door urging them to evacuate. Among the holdouts was Sherman Jones, 56, who was all alone in his house except for his dogs, Mugsy and Junior.
"I am not going to leave 'til my feet are wet," Jones said. "It's been a rough year, but we'll get through it."
In nearby Foley, Gage said Tuesday that water had risen a foot deep on the higher, western side of town since the river topped of the Sandy Creek levee on Sunday. The east side of the town of a few hundred residents was already submerged.
Upstream, the river was continuing to slowly fall from Canton, not far from the Iowa border, through Quincy, Ill., Hannibal and Saverton, Mo.
Farther south, the National Weather Service said the river wouldn't begin to recede at St. Louis until Thursday night. There is flooding in the St. Louis area but none of it is significant.