Flood Waters Begin to Drop As Rain Stops, River Recedes

THE 1 1/2 months of flooding in the Midwest has caused at least 31 deaths and $10 billion in damage, left 16,000 square miles of farmland underwater, and damaged more than 22,000 homes.

A 480-mile stretch of the Mississippi from Dubuque, Iowa, to the mouth of the Ohio River is still above flood stage. River towns below St. Louis are piling sandbags as they wait for the crest to work its way downstream. But flooding is expected to disappear below Cairo, Ill., where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet, and the river gets deeper and wider.

For much of the American Midwest the weather was clear and sunny July 19. River levels began dropping below flood stage in Minnesota and Wisconsin. And in St. Louis, the Mississippi apparently crested July 18 and was dropping off.

But the all-clear hasn't been sounded just yet.

"The good news is that the river has crested," said Tom Dietrich, a National Weather Service hydrologist in St. Louis. "People feel a sense of relief. Maybe they can get through this without any more damage.

"The bad news is that it's going to stay high for quite awhile," he added. "There's still a lot of water coming down the upper Mississippi."

Road crews reopened a Des Moines bridge on the Mississippi River July 20, providing the only way across for 200 miles.

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