Mississippi receding; businesses reopen

Saturday, April 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) _ Cary Veit drove a gleaming white Lexus into his dealership's riverfront showroom, where two weeks earlier the staff had been scrambling to move inventory to higher ground.

With the Mississippi River's crest now passed and a levee still holding, business owners started returning to their downtown stores as they prepared for customers.

``Hopefully not too much longer,'' Veit said Friday. The two weeks the dealership has been closed have cost it an estimated $100,000.

On the other side of the levee, the river was at 21.8 feet early Saturday and continuing its slow descent from a crest of 22.32 feet on Tuesday.

Davenport's minor-league baseball stadium and some homes have flooded, but the levee has protected most of downtown from serious damage. The National Guard and city workers plan to continue a 24-hour watch until the river falls to 19 feet, a level not expected until mid-May.

``This is going to be slow as molasses, as far as the river going down,'' said Dee Bruemmer, the city's public works director.

Downstream, the Mississippi was cresting Saturday in Quincy, Ill., and was expected to remain at about 23.4 feet _ 6.4 feet above flood stage _ through the weekend.

Recent heavy rain in the Minnesota and Wisconsin was creating a second crest along major rivers there, including the Mississippi, which was expected to crest at Alma, Wis., on Saturday. In the already-flood damaged town of La Crosse, Wis., the river has gone from a crest of 16.5 feet, to 15 feet, and was expected to crest again at 15.7 feet on Monday.

``It's not a huge rise,'' National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Watson said. ``I don't think it will get a lot worse than it is now.''

Meteorologists said the additional rain shouldn't have much effect farther downstream. ``It will just delay the slow fall for a day or so,'' said Jim Hladik of National Weather Service.

So far, more than 3,500 homes have been damaged in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa by spring flooding, and damage estimates in Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota have climbed to at least $13 million.

In Missouri and Illinois, a region dotted by flood walls and levees, damage from Mississippi River flooding is expected to be less. By the time the river crests in Cape Girardeau, in southeast Missouri, the water isn't expected to be more than a foot and a half above flood stage. The river still remained closed to shipping as far south as St. Louis.

``We are battened down tight, and everything is looking good,'' said John Hark, emergency management director in Marion County, Mo., across the river from Quincy. ``I don't want to play down the seriousness of it, but after '73 and '93, and a couple in between there, this is not flooding _ this is high water.''