Phil Stang | St. Louis Public Radio

Phil Stang

Trees along Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard are seen surrounded by rising water on Tuesday as the Mississippi River reaches a near-record height.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While water levels are beginning to drop along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, heavy flooding has led to the closure of many roads leading into small river towns and nearly 100 miles of the Katy Trail.

This time of year, John Benz’s campground along Highway 94 in Rhineland is normally packed with Katy Trail bike riders. But, flooding from the Missouri River led to the cancellation of the annual Katy Trail Ride and the closure of the highway. As a result, Benz said business has been down about 90%.

May 29, 2019 Workers shore up a temporary levee across Main Street in Grafton. The river had reached 32 feet, on its way to a projected crest of 36.3 feet, which would be the second highest on record and less than two feet below the record set in 1993.
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Towns along the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers have closed levees, evacuated downtowns and started sandbagging to hold rising floodwaters at bay. Weather experts say the communities will see some of the highest flood levels recorded since the Great Flood of '93.

Despite the flooding, some Missouri and Illinois towns remain open along the river — and their mayors said they hope tourism and community support will help their towns recover from the disasters.

From left, Jo Anne Smiley, Colin Wellenkamp and Phil Stang joined Monday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents of towns along both the Missouri and Illinois sides of the Mississippi River are all too familiar with the effects of flooding on their communities. The disasters happen again and again, and as the New York Times’ reporting indicated in early May, people are eager for a path forward – and for solutions that look beyond levees.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, guest host Ruth Ezell talked with Jo Anne Smiley, the mayor of Clarksville, Missouri, and Phil Stang, the mayor of Kimmswick, Missouri, about their goals moving ahead. Colin Wellenkamp, executive director of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, also participated in the discussion.

Kaci Dalton helped residents fill sandbags on Starling Airport Road in Arnold in May 2017.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Civic leaders along the Mississippi River are bracing for near-record flood levels in the coming days and weeks.

Mayors in Missouri and Illinois say federal programs that aim to prevent flood damage need more funding to adequately support river towns that face evacuation and income loss.

Flooding in Alton is expected to crest next week at 35.2 feet, the fifth-highest flood level on record, according to the National Weather Service. The river at Grafton is expected to reach the fourth-highest flood level on record for the city. River levels at both Illinois towns are expected to exceed levees and rise within 10 feet of historic levels reached during the Great Flood of ’93.