PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill. — Slowly retreating floodwaters gave Midwesterners some hope Wednesday that the worst was over, but many worried that the earthen and days-old sandbag levees along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers could still fail.
Fast-moving currents were testing makeshift protections around Dutchtown, Mo., where the Mississippi was expected to rise well above flood stage later this week and potentially send water into the scattered homes and businesses that comprise the tiny, unprotected river town.
In downtown Peoria, Ill., tens of thousands of white and yellow sandbags stacked 3 feet high lined blocks of the scenic riverfront, holding back Illinois River waters that already reached a 70-year high and surrounded the visitors’ center and restaurants in the 114-year-old former train depot. Across the street, smaller sandbag walls blocked riverside pedestrian access to the headquarters of heavy equipment maker Caterpillar and the city’s arts and culture museum.
Despite the receding water, city leaders were reluctant to issue an all-clear.
“I’m very pleased so far, but we’re not out of the woods,” Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said. “The water’s going to stay up for a while.”
Higher water levels over extended periods of time put significant pressure on levees regardless of how well they’re built. Sandbag walls are particularly vulnerable because of their porous nature, and concerns persisted along the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri, where smaller levees had been overtopped or breached.
Elsewhere, there were no reports of other significant Midwestern population centers in peril, but high water bedeviled business and home owners who are assessing the damage across multiple states.
About a dozen northern Indiana homes were condemned and as many as 200 were damaged by flooding in Kokomo.