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SE Missouri residents face levee breach aftermath

SE Missouri residents face levee breach aftermath

June 3rd, 2011 in News

PINHOOK, Mo. (AP) - Residents of a tiny village behind the Birds Point levee are dealing with the aftermath of the decision to breach the levee and unleash torrents of Mississippi River water across 130,000 acres of land. Many say they want to leave rather than face another potential flood.

"I'm too old to go through this again," said George Williams Sr., one of about 26 residents of the village of Pinhook. "If we stay, we're sitting on a keg of dynamite that could go off at any second. Everybody else may want to do something different, but I bid it farewell."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the floodway needed to be activated last month, as it was intended, to help reduce floodwaters in much larger communities in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. The water rushed across cropland and nearly 100 homes, shattering windows, pulling off doors and rendering much of what was left waterlogged and useless.

The Southeast Missourian reports that anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the floodway remains under some water, but it's started receding enough for residents to return to their property to assess the damage.

Pinhook is now deserted, and many residents met Wednesday with state, federal and local government representatives to voice concerns and make a bid for the government to buy them out.

Debra Tarver, the village's board chairwoman, told officials that residents believe the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the corps should pay to relocate them "as a unit" to another spot in Mississippi County.

"This is a family," Tarver said. "We love Pinhook and most of us have lived there all our lives. We want to stay together, but it needs to be somewhere else. Then, if something happens - earthquakes, whatever - then fine. But no more water."

The meeting was attended by officials from FEMA, Darren Lingle of Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's office, Mississippi County Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett and state Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie. The officials said relocation may be a possibility, but could take years. In the meantime, they told residents to register with FEMA for individual assistance.

Corps spokesman Jim Pogue said a system-wide levee assessment will begin within the next two weeks, starting in Cape Girardeau and continuing all the way down to New Orleans. The corps will look at how its levees and other flood-fighting measures worked along the length of the Mississippi and then evaluate what needs to be done. Funding to pay for what could be billions in repairs to the system also could prove daunting, he said.

"We're going to miss our place," Dora Brown said Wednesday as she surveyed her Pinhook home. "When I first saw it, it just made you want to cry. We raised our children here. We love our community. We really don't know what we're going to do."


Information from: Southeast Missourian,