STE. GENEVIEVE, MO (KPLR) – About 55 miles south of St. Louis, residents in Ste. Genevieve worry the Mississippi River could reach levels not seen since the Great Flood of 1993. There’s a new, multi-million dollar levee in place, but will it be enough?
At the moment, Ste. Genevieve is a town of two floods: the one that’s already here and the one that residents pray can be stopped.
Authorities are continuing to add height to the levee. They’re prepping a road to bring in more heavy equipment on Tuesday, so they can continue to bring rocks to the levee.
The main levee, a $40 million project, was completed shortly after the turn of the century. It’s designed to hold back a 50-foot river tide, Ste. Genevieve Mayor Dick Greninger said. The most water it's had to deal with was around 42-feet.
The numbers say the levee should hold. If it doesn’t, the Ste. Genevieve historic district will be destroyed.
Further south, along what's called "The farmers' levee," similar work is going on in an effort to prevent it from being topped.
Beth Boyd owns a home and a business in the historic district. She was stacking sandbags with her sister Monday night, concerned about creek water getting into her basement. She’s never dealt with this before, moving to Missouri from Arizona seven years ago.
“We were actually joking that this is an experience we never hoped we would have,” she said.
The thought of a levee breech is tough to even think about.
“It’s an historic house," she said, dating back to 1881. “...So just protecting that. My mom owns this house and she managed to salvage a lot of the original stuff. The floors. How the house looks inside, so just not losing that.”
A block up the street, at the Sella and Me Café, they were packing up everything to move out. They know the levee should hold, but say it’s hard to trust. They want to be ready if it doesn’t.
Both locations on Main Street make them a target for the mayor’s message.
“We are asking people in the lower parts of town to just take precautions, to be ready because of something catastrophic were to happen, if she happened to break, they’re not gonna have much time to be able to get out. So we don’t want people to panic, but we want them to be aware of the situation,” Greninger said.
In other sections of town, creek water had flooded out roads. Much of 3rd St., a section of Washington, and the area where Main Street dips below the train tracks, are all closed with high water.
Shawn Donaldson was in the process of moving many of his belongings out of his home. We watched the water rise fast enough to basically destroy his car and let water into his small house. The current high water and the possibility of what the river could do are enough to send him packing.
“They say it’s gonna crest by Friday so I figure it’s time to go,” he said. “Mother Nature’s gonna take its course so I just want to be as safe as I can be."