By JIM SALTER
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Mississippi River is on the rise again, the latest round of flooding along the nation's largest river.
Parts of northern Missouri, western Illinois and southeastern Iowa received 2-3 inches of rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, causing a sudden and sharp rise in the river from southeastern Iowa to near St. Louis.
"It aggravated a flood situation already occurring," National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye said Thursday.
No major problems were reported in Iowa. A tributary, the Des Moines River, is flooding farmland and roads in low-lying areas of Lee County, but no homes or businesses were affected.
The river was expected to crest up to 7 feet above flood stage Thursday through Sunday in several towns between Hannibal, Mo., and St. Louis. The water is expected to drop off steadily after the crest - provided that another batch of heavy rain doesn't fall. Dye said no significant rain was in the forecast over the next seven days.
Because of levees and buyouts, few homes were expected to be affected. In Quincy, Ill., the river was at 23.5 feet Thursday, 6.5 feet above flood stage and at what is considered "major flood stage" by the Weather Service. But outside of a few road closings, no major problems were reported.
Towns were taking precautions. Hannibal installed its floodgates to protect the downtown area that draws a half-million visitors every year to the Mark Twain historic sites. The river was nearly 7-and-a-half feet above flood stage, causing backwater into Bear Creek.
"It's backing out of Bear Creek into some streets, but nothing we can't handle," emergency director John Hark said.
Tiny Hamburg, Ill., 70 miles north of St. Louis, put a call out for sandbagging help as water began creeping near eight homes in the town of 128 residents. Inmates from a prison in Pittsfield, Ill., were helping to build a 3-foot-tall sandbag wall along Front Street to protect the community.
Town Clerk Connie Proctor said 85 percent of Hamburg residents are elderly or disabled and needed help from the volunteers to sandbag around their homes.
"It's a wait-and-see situation," Proctor said. "The river is rising fast. We're just getting a jump on it so we'll be ready."
The river was less than a foot above flood stage in St. Louis on Thursday and expected to rise about 4 additional feet before cresting on Sunday. That would likely flood most of Sullivan Boulevard that runs along the river, just in front of the Gateway Arch, but few if any homes or businesses would be affected.
The latest rise in the Mississippi comes weeks after near-record flooding earlier this spring on the river in southern Missouri and southern Iowa. The Missouri River also continues to rise in northwest Missouri.
Associated Press writer Michael J. Crumb in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.