Mike Branchik returns to dry land using makeshift walkway from his home as Illinois River flooded homes April 23, 2013, in Peoria Heights, Ill.
(CBS NEWS/AP) -- Flood-weary homeowners and sandbaggers
across the Midwest are praying for a relenting of rains that have added
more water to already swollen rivers blamed for swallowing up
neighborhoods, fraying victims' patience along the way.
as some of the renegade rivers are showing signs of cresting, the
recovery won't be fast or easy. The National Weather Service expects
many of the waterways to remain high into next month, straining levees
during the rivers' expectedly slow descent.
were rising to record levels along the Illinois River in central
Illinois. In Missouri, six small levees north of St. Louis were
overtopped by the surging Mississippi River, though mostly farmland was
biggest troubles were in Illinois, on the Illinois River, which Peoria
officials said Tuesday finally had crested, but not without destruction.
In Peoria Heights, population 6,700, roads and buildings were flooded
and riverfront structures were inundated. Firefighters feared that if
fuel from businesses and vehicles starts to leak, it could spark fires
in areas that could be reached only by boat.
nightmare: A building burns, and we can't get to it," Peoria Heights
Fire Chief Greg Walters said. "These are combustible buildings, and we
have no access to them simply because of the flooding."
About 20 to 30 homes and businesses near the river have been evacuated, he said.
In Spring Bay, Ill., where some 41 homes were underwater, a big concern was logs being carried by the river, reports CBS Peoria affiliate WMBD. One firefighter and EMT says he's pulling logs out of the water every day.
those still in their homes in Peoria Heights was Mark Reatherford. The
52-year-old unemployed baker has lived for decades in the same
split-level home with a gorgeous view: a small park between him and the
Illinois River. But by Tuesday afternoon, as a chilly rain fell, the
river had rolled over the park and made it to Reatherford's home,
creating a 3-foot-deep mess in the basement. Reatherford had cleared out
the basement furniture and was hopeful the main floor would stay dry.
Now, he's considering moving.
"You can't get a better view than what we've got here," he said. But, "I'm getting too old to deal with this."
a nearby neighborhood, retired Caterpillar crane operator Roland Gudat
spent much of Tuesday afternoon on his porch swing, looking out with
marvel toward the Illinois River that had swallowed up homes down the
street but spared his home of 46 years, except for the hundreds of
gallons of water he has pumped out of his basement as seepage from the
Gudat, 73, remarked that he'd never
seen the river so high. That goes for the gawkers who have annoyed him
so much that he and neighbors placed saw horses in their driveways to
prevent them from turning around, forcing them to back their way back
down the road.
"I told them this isn't a damn cul de
sac," he said. "If they knock those saw horses over, I'm gonna turn
their keys off and call the cops."
In downtown Peoria,
tens of thousands of white and yellow sandbags stacked 3 feet high lined
blocks of the city's scenic riverfront, holding back floodwaters that
already had surrounded the visitors' center and the 114-year-old former
train depot that lately has housed restaurants. Across the street,
smaller sandbag walls blocked off riverside pedestrian access to
Caterpillar's headquarters and the city's museum.
nearby Chillicothe, more than 400 homes have been affected by the flood,
said Vicky Turner, director of the Peoria County Emergency Management
Agency. Many homes have been evacuated, but others whose owners have had
their buildings raised over the years because of flooding have chosen
to stay put, Turner said.
"They row back and forth ... up to the main road," she said.
elsewhere, there were snippets of good news. Lucas Schultz, the
12-year-old Smithton, Ill., boy who was rescued Sunday from the raging
Big River near Leadwood, Mo. and revived by his rescuer, was at home
Tuesday and doing fine.
The Mississippi still hasn't
crested in Dutchtown, Mo., a 100-resident town 110 miles south of St.
Louis that in recent days, with help from dozens of Missouri National
Guard members, waged a feverish sandbagging effort that as of Tuesday
In Indiana, floodgates were installed to try
to keep the flooding Wabash River from the state's oldest town,
Vincennes. Some strategic spots were also being reinforced with
sandbags. The weather service projected a crest on Saturday about 12
feet above flood stage, the highest reading in nearly 70 years at
Vincennes, founded in 1732.
In Saginaw County, Mich.,
water topped the dyke at Misteguay Creek in Spaulding Township.
Businesses and homes were flooded along the Tittabawassee River, a
Saginaw River tributary. Part of Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge
also was underwater.