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A Missouri Town Braces for Floods

Marc Sanchez

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On Friday, the National Weather Service lowered crest predictions for the Mississippi River. That's good news on the back of bad news -- the river is cresting lower than predicted because several levees broke in Illinois this week. Instead of hurtling south, the river water was sent washing over farmland.

As the crest moves downstream, the story repeats itself in towns along its path: Will our levees hold? Will the walls of sandbags, put up round the clock, keep the waters back?

Still, communities like Clarksville, Mo. (pop. 500) are breathing easier this morning. For a glimpse of the flood scene we check in with Bud Garrison, who owns a pottery shop in Clarksville that's right next to the river.

Bud Garrison: Right now I'm sitting in the pottery shop on Front Street, in Clarksville. Normally we are about 100 feet from the river -- this morning we are probably about 15 feet from the river. We are sitting behind a sandbag levee that has been constructed down Front Street, right in front of our shop.

Desiree Cooper: Did you help construct that levee?

Garrison: Yes, actually there were about a dozen of us a week ago Sunday that started the levee, and the effort has grown significantly since then. We now have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers as well as National Guard and the prisoners from the Missouri State Penitentiary helping us.

Cooper: I understand that the Illinois National Guard delivered something like 25,000 filled sandbags just yesterday. Where were you when that happened?

I was here at the shop. We'd been filling sandbags for the first week by hand, so that was certainly a welcome addition to our stockpile.

What's the mood in the town now?

It's very optimistic, but I'll tell you, it's been upbeat and optimistic throughout. Of course in the first three or four days -- before we knew we were going to have these sorts of resources helping us -- we were all anxious and nervous. But the town people really never lost their spirit.

I find that amazing -- if I thought the river was going to overflow, I don't know what I'd be grabbing first. Your shop is right there on the water, basically. What were you thinking?

We couldn't afford to lose all of our kilns and inventory, so the first day or two we just went about getting the shops evacuated and getting basements and the houses along Front Street evacuated. You don't really have time to think much about the disaster, you just get into gear.

What's your weekend going to be like?

For us right now, we are hoping for some downtime today and tomorrow. We got some rest finally, we got to sleep through the night last night for the first time. Our home is located about a half a block from here and we are very fortunate that our house is up on about a five-foot stone foundation, so we have about three or four feet of water in the basement that we are continuing to pump. But our house is safe and some of our neighbors are not quite as fortunate. We just hope that when the river crests again tomorrow night, it isn't any worse than yesterday when it crested.

Well, I hope you get that much deserved downtime and some sunshine.

Thank you.


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