Ettie Berneking

(Ettie Berneking/St. Louis Public Radio)

Urban gardening has found a stronghold in backyard and community plots and now, with some help from one organization, urban gardening is making its move into St. Louis schools.

(via Flickr/ Beaufort Thedigitel)

Despite the onslaught of rain and thunderstorms, the Missouri Department of Transportation says it will move ahead with planned road closures over the weekend.

Several interstate lanes and ramps will be closed while dozens of repairs to the roadways are made.

Deanna Venker, with MoDOT, says the numerous closures might seem like they’d cause a huge headache, but they will actually reduce the impact on drivers.

“We’re trying to incorporate as much work as we can in to these closures when we have to do them,” Venker said.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Updated 1:51 p.m. April 28:

Via the Associated Press:

The Black River is receding at Poplar Bluff, Mo., and some 1,000 evacuees are now allowed to go home.

Officials in the southeast Missouri community of 17,000 residents on Thursday lifted a mandatory evacuation order for a large section of town, where river water has been pouring over the top of the levee.

Residents in the impacted area can return home whenever they choose.

Many will find a mess left behind by the murky water. Officials don't yet know how many homes were damaged in Poplar Bluff and in a rural area of Butler County also protected by the levee.

The National Weather Service said Thursday that after a crest of 21.4 feet on Tuesday, the Black River at Poplar Bluff was down to 19.1 feet.

Updated 11:14 a.m. April 27:

Via the Associated Press:

The Army Corps of Engineers says it will wait until this weekend to decide whether to intentionally break a southeastern Missouri levee along the Mississippi River.

The Corps has said it may have to blow holes in the Birds Point levee to ease rising waters near the Illinois town of Cairo which sits near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Missouri has sued (see 12:58 update) to block the effort because it would swamp farmland. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

But Corps spokesman Bob Anderson tells The Associated Press that even if a judge gives the go-ahead, the agency will wait until it gets a better forecast of the river crests to see if the breach is necessary. That decision isn't likely to come until at least this weekend.

Updated 5:06 p.m. April 26:

Via the Associated Press:

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is defending the idea of intentionally breaching a Missouri levee to reduce flooding in Cairo.

Missouri officials object to the plan, saying it would endanger 130,000 acres of prime farmland.

But Simon told The Associated Press on Tuesday that farmers will be compensated for their losses and will be able to use the land next year. On the other hand, flooding could devastate the poor town of Cairo.

She noted an Illinois levee was intentionally breached during 1993 flooding.

Simon also says the Army Corps of Engineers would not break the Birds Point levee until water had already topped the levee.

The Corps of Engineers says it will put off a decision until at least Wednesday.

Updated 4:20 p.m. April 26:

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill says she has concerns about the intentional breaching of the levee at Birds Point (via a press release):

“While emergency responders and volunteers work to save lives and protect property as best they can, the Army Corps of Engineers are working to find a solution to alleviate the stress from our levees.  I have grave concerns about the plan to intentionally breach Bird’s Point Levee that is being considered. In the effort to prevent more damage, we may do additional significant harm to the agricultural economy of the region that will last well after the flood waters recede.”

The release says McCaskill has already communicated her concerns with the Army Corps of Engineers' leadership.

tylerdurden1 | Flickr

If you use a cellphone instead of a landline, you aren’t alone. More people are dropping their landlines in exchange for a cellphone-only existence.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released estimates today showing a two year increase in Missouri and Illinois households making the switch to cellphones.

In Missouri:

(St. Louis Community College)

St. Louis Community College has a new chancellor -- Myrtle E.B. Dorsey.

The St. Louis Community College Board of Trustees announced Dorsey’s selection this morning.

Dorsey, who spent nine years as Chancellor at Baton Rouge Community College in Louisiana, will replace Zelema Harris. Harris joined St. Louis Community College in 2007 and announced her retirement earlier this year.

Dorsey will take over the position starting June 16.

According to a press release, Dorsey earned her doctorate from the University of Texas

(via Flickr/Neil Conway)

Artificial trans fats might be escorted out of Illinois after House lawmakers passed a bill banning them in restaurants, school vending machines and other venues statewide, according to the Post Dispatch.

The bill, if passed in the Senate, would take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

(via Landmarks Illinois)

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Luke Runyon used in this report.

Several aging buildings in Illinois have a better chance of survival now that they’ve been added to Landmarks Illinois’ list of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places for 2011.

Two of the properties are over 100 years old, and others, includes Belleville Turner Hall, a community and civic center in Belleville, Ill., which dates back to the 1920s and ‘30s.

(via Flickr/aperte)

Today’s elections seem to be running smoothly according to election officials in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County.

A low voter turnout was predicted across the board, but some areas are seeing higher turnout than expected.

Rich Chrismer, director of elections for St. Charles County, said the county is looking at an 18 percent turnout.

(Farmhaus management)

Kevin Willmann, chef and owner of a new restaurant in south St. Louis, has found himself on Food & Wine magazine’s list of Best Chefs of 2011, according to the Post-Dispatch.

(Julie Bierach/St. Louis Public Radio)

Beginning Friday, a new traffic routing system and trolley service will be implemented at Forest Park.

The new traffic plan (see map below) was announced today by the non-profit Forest Park Forever and partnering institutions to help alleviate congestion at the Hampton entrance to the park.

Lesley Hoffarth, president of Forest Park Forever, said that from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, vehicles will be diverted to the east on Wells.

via flickr/Bill Greenblatt

President Obama declared a state of disaster in 59  Missouri counties today as a result of severe winter storms that struck the state between late January and early February. Federal aid has been made available to supplement state and local cleanup efforts.

Federal assistance and funding will be available to state and local governments on a cost-sharing basis in order to help with snow removal, emergency work and repair or replacement of damaged facilities.

(Via Flickr/Rosemary)

Today is the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s health care reform law. Despite threats to repeal the law, Illinois’ top insurance regulator said people are better protected and covered under the law.

After one year of being in effect the law has managed to round up plenty of support but also plenty of disdain.

(St. Louis Public Radio)

Intelligence gathered after last night’s fatal shooting in North St. Louis has led the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to believe the incident is tied to several other homicides from the last two weeks.

In hopes of supplementing intelligence efforts and arresting possible suspects, the department has activated the Violent Offense Team.

Visitors attending this year’s Ancient Order of the Hibernians' St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dogtown might need some luck of the Irish to find parking this year.

Changes in traffic restrictions at this year’s parade will close down more residential streets around the parade route, cutting off all parking within the Dogtown neighborhood. Only residents with passes will be allowed into the area.

(via Flickr/aka Kath)

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will host the last open house tomorrow to answer questions about the high-speed rail project between St. Louis and Chicago.

The public meetings, which began March 1, are aimed at answering questions about a recent environmental study. The study evaluates the impact of adding a second track to the high-speed route.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Brewing giant, Anheuser-Busch InBev, is looking to grow its market base in Europe after reports project higher savings than expected.

The producer of hoppy classics like Budweiser and Stella Artois is looking forward to some $.75 billion in savings, says Chief Executive Carlos Brito.

The Monarch Fire Protection District, in West St. Louis County, should expect to be audited later this year after Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the State Auditor’s Office to perform an audit of the fire district. The governor gave the order after reviewing allegations against the fire district sent by the State Auditor’s Office.

The final step for approval of Paul McKee, Jr’s Northside project was taken earlier this week. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signed off on an updated plan for the $8.1 billion project Tuesday, according to a report today by the St. Louis Business Journal.

Officials with the Missouri Department of Transportation say work on the Poplar Street Bridge will start this spring and continue into the fall.

The work will involve resurfacing the bridge deck and will result in lane closures and traffic delays.

Deanna Venker is an area engineer for MoDOT.  She says the work could not be delayed until the completion of the new Mississippi River bridge in 2014.

St. Louis County Assessor's Office

St. Louis County Assessor candidate Jake Zimmerman today announced his plan to help St. Louis homeowners get fair and accurate home assessments.

Zimmerman, a Democratic state representative, says he can't control property taxes, but if elected he will work to control unfair practices like drive-by assessments. 

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