ST. LOUIS — The Mississippi River climbed toward its high-water mark Monday at St. Louis and was expected to crest over the next couple of days at points downriver, but the worst of the flood of 2008 appeared to be over.
The National Weather Service said the river was leveling off at St. Louis at slightly less than 9 feet above flood stage and was expected to stay there into Tuesday before slowly falling, barring more torrential rain to the north.
The high water wasn't causing any major problems because low-lying areas are protected by a floodwall and the downtown area rises sharply from the river. Along the river, the President Casino remained closed, as did a couple of riverboat excursions and a bike rental business near the Gateway Arch. The arch is unaffected by flooding.
"The message is we are open for business," said Donna Andrews, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.
The city's annual Independence Day festival will move away from the Arch grounds to another spot downtown. The Live on the Levee concert series normally held at the arch also has been relocated. With the Cubs in town for a weekend series with the Cardinals, Andrews expects big crowds for the holiday weekend, flooding or not.
At Ste. Genevieve, a quaint village of 4,400 people 64 miles south of St. Louis, this year's flood fight is nothing like the one in 1993, when hundreds of volunteers barely managed to hold back the swollen river. This year's crest at Ste. Genevieve, while well above flood stage, will be about 12 feet short of the '93 record, and a $41 million levee has been built to protect the French Colonial village, which dates to 1735.
The only problems were relatively minor — water closed a highway in a couple of spots around nearby St. Mary, some agricultural land was flooded and seeping water created so-called "sand boils" at a farm levee.
"We're actually in pretty decent shape," said Ste. Genevieve County Commissioner Albert Fults.
The river at Cape Girardeau in southeast Missouri is expected to crest at 42.5 feet on Wednesday, 12.5 feet above flood stage. Thousands of acres of farmland are flooded, but a floodwall protects Cape Girardeau and most of its 36,000 residents. Few if any homes will be affected, Cape Girardeau County emergency management director Richard Knaup said.
In hard-hit Lincoln County, upriver and northwest of St. Louis, water was slowly starting to recede in towns like Winfield and Foley. Hundreds of homes were flooded, but it likely will be weeks before a damage estimate is available.
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