Friday, April 29, 2011

While judge considers levee breach, Olive Branch threatened by rising water

OLIVE BRANCH, IL (KRCU) - As judge Stephen Limbaugh mulls a decision on the Army Corps of Engineer’s authority to open a hole in the Birds Point levee, residents in the small town of Olive Branch fill sandbags and try to salvage what’s left above water. 

Many homes and businesses in Olive Branch are already submerged. The Alexander County community has been under a boil water order for a week. Electricity regularly cuts on and off.

Olive Branch is threatened by water from both the Ohio and Mississippi River. About twenty people - young and old - gather at one home on Route 3, desperately filling sandbags to protect one of the most threatened houses.

Some express animosity towards Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster for blocking the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to blow the Birds Creek Levee in order to relieve pressure on Cairo and other towns in Alexander County. One woman implores the Attorney General to put on his boots, cross the river, and help fill sandbags.

Everybody offers thanks to the high school students from Goreville and Meridian who volunteered the previous day.

At Olive Branch’s only store, a handwritten sign is posted on the window. It reads in big letters “We Need Help to Sand Bag on Cypress Drive. We are about to get water in our homes.”

The story’s manager, Kelsi Phillips, says that lunch meat is a popular item right now, along with paper towels, bleach, water, and toilet paper.

But her own house is a lost cause.

“It looks like an ocean. My house looks like a swamp. It’s underwater. I was boating in sandbags. I had to get everything to my mom and dad’s. I can’t find any clothes. It’s miserable,” Phillips said.

The river is not expected to crest until next week. Until then, residents will continue to fight off the advancing the water.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU


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