Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » *** UPDATED x9 - Missouri to appeal - Sand boils - DNR praised - Regional IEMA problems - Simon & Durbin headed to Cairo - Photos - The Corps’ dire warning - IRMA sending “truckloads” of supplies to region - VIDEO: Durbin warns about MO appeal - VIDEO: Phelps to MO: Back off - IEMA responds *** Judge rules against Missouri
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*** UPDATED x9 - Missouri to appeal - Sand boils - DNR praised - Regional IEMA problems - Simon & Durbin headed to Cairo - Photos - The Corps’ dire warning - IRMA sending “truckloads” of supplies to region - VIDEO: Durbin warns about MO appeal - VIDEO: Phelps to MO: Back off - IEMA responds *** Judge rules against Missouri

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

* Federal Judge Stephen Limbaugh has ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers can blow the Misssouri fuseplug levee and relieve flooding pressure on Cairo

Limbaugh wrote that he found that the Corps is committed to implementing the plan only as essential to provide protection to all citizens. He wrote “this Court finds that no aspect of the Corps’ response to these historic floods suggests arbitrary or capricious decision-making is occurring.”

The Corps plans to decide this weekend whether to blow up the Birds Point levee, depending on the level of the water on the river. It will detonate explosives in the levee if the Cairo river reaches 61 feet. At 8 a.m. CDT (1300 GMT) on Friday, it was at 59 feet and forecast to rise to 60.5 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office just told me they are prepared in case Missouri decides to appeal Judge Limbaugh’s ruling.

While good news, the situation is really precarious all over that region. I’ll have more in a while.

*** UPDATE 1 - 12:30 pm *** The morons are appealing


Notice is hereby given that Plaintiffs State of Missouri ex rel. Chris Koster, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit from the judgment entered in this action denying a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the 29th day of April, 2011.

From the Illinois AG’s office…

We will be ready to respond very quickly to oppose Missouri’s attempt to overturn the District Court’s decision.

From Gov. Pat Quinn’s office…

“My hope is that this decision will be upheld as it proceeds through the judicial process.”

*** UPDATE 2 - 12:36 pm *** I’m hearing reports of sand boils in several locations starting late last night. A huge one was in Cairo. These are not good things. Wikipedia

Sand boils or Sand Volcanoes occur when water under pressure wells up through a bed of sand. The water looks like it is “boiling” up from the bed of sand, hence the name.

Sand boils can be a mechanism contributing to levee failure during floods. This effect is caused by a difference in pressure on two sides of a levee or dike, most likely during a flood. This process can result in piping, whereby the removal of soil particles results in a pipe through the embankment. The creation of the pipe will quickly pick up pace and will eventually result in failure of the embankment.

A sand boil is difficult to stop. The most effective method is by creating a body of water above the boil to create enough pressure to slow the flow of water. A slower flow will not be able to move soil particles. The body of water is often created with sandbags forming a ring around the boil.

*** UPDATE 3 - 12:39 pm*** I’m told by several people on the ground that the Department of Natural Resources is doing an outstanding job. “DNR has saved a lot of towns down here,” said one area pol, who added that DNR’s crews are working their tails off.

The Department of Corrections is being praised for sending out their inmate crews. The State Police are also being praised.

There’s a real problem, however, with the regional director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. The regional guy is from Chicago and I’m told by three different people down there that he can’t even pronounce many of the town names in his area, much less know where they are or what to do. Also, IEMA pulled out of Olive Branch last night in order to head to higher ground. DNR stayed put and fought.

*** UPDATE 4 - 12:45 pm*** Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is heading to Cairo with Sen. Dick Durbin as I write this. From a press release…

Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will join with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin in Cairo today to tour the most vulnerable areas of the town. After a brief driving tour, they will arrive at the intersection of 15th Street and Cedar Street, where they will take a walking tour and meet with local officials. A media availability will then be held at 12th Street and Commercial Avenue. Following the media availability, Lt. Governor Simon will join with Alexander County Sheriff Timothy Brown to help sandbag along the river.

*** UPDATE 5 - 1:05 pm*** I’m getting some photos taken from Sen. Durbin’s helicopter. I’ll be posting them over the next several minutes. Here is Grand Tower

* 8 miles north of Cape Girardeau, MO

* Union County, IL

* Route 3 in Alexander County, IL

* More Alexander County…

* Ohio River…

* And here come the Cairo photos

* This is right next to Cairo…

* Interstate 57 right outside Cairo…

* 1:37 pm - They just landed, so ground-level pics will be coming soon, I hope.

* Here are a couple of Cairo sinkholes…

* A sinkhole closeup…

* Another angle…

* I’m told there are between 6 and 7 of these sandboils downtown.

*** UPDATE 6 - 2:05 pm*** Jim Pogue, spokesman for the Memphis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was on AgriTalk today and had some dire things to say about the levee system. Listen…

“We don’t want things to happen in an uncontrolled fashion,” Pogue said. “If we had an uncontrolled levee failure, potentially much worse damage could occur.”

If a particular levee north of the Missouri floodway were to breach, the river could flow over “literally millions of acres.” Several communities are in that area. A large section of the boot heel of Missouri and northeastern Arkansas could flood as well, he warned.

*** UPDATE 7 - 2:40 pm *** I had heard earlier today that the Illinois Retail Merchants Association had really stepped forward to help with the flood-fighting efforts, so I called Dave Vite, who runs IRMA.

Vite said his member retailers have sent “truckloads” of supplies to the region in the past three days. Kroger and WalMart have supplied bottled water, for instance. Sears and Home Depot have sent other supplies, like gloves, life vests and lots more. “They ask, we try to find something to fill a need,” Vite said.

Vite said he wasn’t one to brag about his association all that much, but did say “When the chips are down our industry always steps up and comes up with the things that people really need.”

*** UPDATE 8 - 2:45 pm *** This is a cellphone video, so the quality isn’t very good, but here is Sen. Durbin talking to the media about Missouri’s decision to appeal Judge Limbaugh’s ruling. “If this is going to turn out to be a battle of the lawyers on both sides of the river, a lot of innocent people could be harmed,” Durbin said. Watch

*** UPDATE 9 - 2:50 pm *** Here’s another video of Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Sen. Gary Forby and Rep. Brandon Phelps. Rep. Phelps said he hoped Missouri would “back off” the appeal and said “every hour is critical.” Watch

*** UPDATE 10 - 3:18 pm *** IEMA responds…

Rich – I saw the item on the blog regarding IEMA’s response to the flooding in Alexander County. I wanted to let you know what the actual situation is down there.

There are actually 10 emergency management personnel on the ground in Alexander County (two IEMA personnel and eight personnel from local emergency management agencies outside the affected region working with us on the response). They continue to work closely with the other state agencies on the scene, local emergency management and local officials, the Army Corps of Engineers and the American Red Cross on response efforts. The only thing that was relocated was our mobile command vehicle, which was moved to higher ground early this morning because the water was rising and the equipment could be threatened. That equipment is still being used for the response in Alexander County.

* This Cairo levee photo was taken two days ago

From the photog…

Facing south from the top of the levee at 8th Street. Ohio River is almost to the top. Top=64 feet… so about 58 feet.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:14 am:

    Kudos to Limbaugh for knowing a slam-dunk when he sees one and acting expeditiously. Splendid behavior from a former GOP pol from Cape Girardeau. I’m sure he’s made some of his old pals unhappy.

    The Missourians can tell their folks they took their shot, and now they should just get out of the way and let the lawfully mandated experts deal with this dangerous situation the best way they can.

  2. - MrJM - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:21 am:

    The least worst outcome is the new good news.

    – MrJM

  3. - chimary - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:35 am:

    This is a good decision. Thank you Judge!

  4. - just sayin' - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:46 am:

    God willing and the creek don’t rise any more, the whole thing will hopefully be moot.

  5. - ANON - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:49 am:

    Cousin Rush would be proud of him for sticking it to Illinois Democrats

  6. - ANON - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:50 am:

    That should be ashamed of him for siding with Illinois Democrats

  7. - mokenavince - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:54 am:

    Sound judgement by a Judge who read the law.Bravo!

  8. - Colossus - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 11:35 am:

    Agreed with MrJM, this is a no-win situation and I acknowledge the serious and dangerous situation for what it is.

    That said, I’m going to go back to the theme we’ve been pursuing this week and say “Let the invasion begin!”

  9. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 12:52 pm:

    Sand boils are the precursor to very bad things happening. You can still see the remnants of sand boils that occured during the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes. Those of us familiar with the stability of the ten foot thick topsoil here on the prairie can’t imagine the fragility of that sandy soil in those river bottoms. Being in the agricultural industry, I hate to see that land flooded. It will take several years to repair the damage. But on the other hand, it’s better to pick your spots and minimize the damage to life and property rather than just wait and see what gives first, and where.

  10. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 12:57 pm:

    So the Missourians figure they didn’t get a fair shake from a lifelong Cape Girardeau native and former Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court?

    The original suit was cheap political grandstanding. Now they’ve raised it to truly silly and stupid levels. There’s serious business to attend to, and they’re playing games — and they know it, too.

  11. - Bob - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:00 pm:

    Just left Cairo, its almost became a ghost town. Looked like to me People moving out, City and county Officials, the National guard and site seers. With all the sand boils and the streets falling in, Cairo may not survive. We can only hope and pray it survives

  12. - Downstate Illinois - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:00 pm:

    Sand boils are a problem, but they aren’t a calamity as long as there are boots on the ground able to sandbag around it.

    Officials in Gallatin County have said repeatedly since 1997, if it wasn’t for the inmates and IDOC crews that year addressing the sand boils in the Old Shawneetown levee system they would have lost the town during the flood. Same will likely be true this year.

    A day before the crest in 1937, Army engineers in Cairo had reported the formation of more than 50 sand boils at that point in the levees around that city.

  13. - TimB - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:01 pm:

    Anonymous 12:52 was me. Sorry.

  14. - Downstate Illinois - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:14 pm:

    Memo to the Regional IEMA Director:

    If a community in Southern Illinois has an Old World name, then the pronounciation is something else than used on the other side of the ocean. Ex. KAY-ro, VI-anna, New AY-thens.

    Similarly, mythical cities are pronounced differently here as well. Eldorado is NOT El Dorado (something even George Ryan never learned). It’s L-DOO-RAY-DOH. Historically, it was the railroad that gave that us the city’s spelling. Originally it was named after two early families, the Elders and the Reeds, yet mysteriously it’s NOT pronounced L-DOO-REED-O.

    French geographical names are never pronounced the way they should if you speak French. Ex. Beaucoup Creek is NOT, I repeat, NOT, boo-coo Creek. It’s buccup, as it will take a whole lot of buckets when it overflows.

    However, if the geographical name looks like an English word, we may just very well pronounce it differently. Thus the Saline River and Saline County are not pronounced like a SAY-leen solution, but suh-LEEN, even though the river is name for the Great Salt Spring and saltwells that once formed the state’s first major industry.

    This concludes the lesson in not insulting the residents of the southern start of the state.

  15. - Sportsman - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:15 pm:

    Leave it to Quinn to appoint an Emergency Director to that area that doesn’t know the names of the towns or even how to navigate the area. To a reasonable person, that would seem to be a prerequisite.

  16. - Rich Miller - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:15 pm:

    ===boots on the ground able to sandbag around it. ===

    Except that big one in Cairo sucked the sandbags down and then blew a geyser in the river.

  17. - Peggy R - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:17 pm:

    I give credit to Lt Gov Simon for bringing the IL State gov’t attention to the needs of Cairo. I believe (?) Dick Durbin (as well as LG Simon’s father?) has some history of looking out for the folks of Cairo. My memory is straining a bit. Chicagoan Quinn could not care less. The Belleville diocese does much for the people of Cairo as do individual Catholics and other churches and charities.

    Good on Judge Limbaugh recognizing that the deal made remains valid today. The rule of law wins the day! Except MO appeals. The Gov and AG in MO are Dems by the way.

  18. - amalia - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:23 pm:

    hope there is no loss of life from these floods. the pictures are scary and the sand boils details are quite disturbing. thanks, Rich, for providing so many details. this is far more informing than other news sources.

  19. - Palatine - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:28 pm:

    When you drive into Cairo there are huge steel doors that look really old that close accros the road going into town. Does anyone know if they will close those doors and also when where they built?

  20. - DaveM - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:36 pm:

    The “nice” thing is that the river isn’t rising as fast as projected earlier. Keep an eye on the gauges here:,1,1,1,1,1,1,1%22

  21. - John Herath - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:42 pm:

    Peggy R - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is a republican. Governor Jay Nixon is a democrat.

  22. - Peggy R - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:49 pm:

    John, Koster switched to Dem party. I live in STL Metro.

  23. - John Herath - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:52 pm:

    My apologies. You are correct.

  24. - Illinois Geologist - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:59 pm:

    The sooner they can lower the level of water on the river, the better the bad situation will be.

    Over time, the water flowing through and under the levee will cause the top of the levee to slump down. As the top sags, it becomes more likely the water will overtop it, even though the water may not reach the design height.

    Diverting the water onto the Missouri floodplain will lower the water by several feet and reduce the likelihood that the levees around Cairo will fail.

    In addition, the longer high water sits on the levee, the more saturated the levee gets. When the Missouri diversion is activated and the water in the river starts to fall, the river side of a saturated levee can fail as the water runs out of it and the river is no longer putting pressure on the side, holding it in place.

    Diverting the water sooner, rather than later, allows less water to seep into the levee and allows the water in the river to be let down more slowly.

  25. - Been There - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 2:03 pm:

    Anyone driving down I-57 better put their life preserver on. The pic makes it look like a slight swerve off the road puts you right in the drink. I’d also worry about the road just washing out.

  26. - Peggy R - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 2:17 pm:

    No worries, John.

    Downstate IL–great instructions!

  27. - Leave a light on George - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 2:25 pm:

    =I’m told by several people on the ground that the Department of Natural Resources is doing an outstanding job. “DNR has saved a lot of towns down here,” said one area pol, who added that DNR’s crews are working their tails off.=

    DNR folks were the heroes during Katrina too. They didn’t pay attention to the agency jurisdictional BS and just went to work helping people.

  28. - Bob - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 3:33 pm:

    WHERE’s JERRY A US senator can show up but a congressman cannot show up in his own district. I bet Costello and Quinn are planning another meeting in Marion with the new IEMA director

  29. - soccermom - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 3:46 pm:

    Every day, I love Durbin more.

  30. - Anon58 - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 3:50 pm:

    “Except that big one in Cairo sucked the sandbags down and then blew a geyser in the river.” ~ There was a sand boil in the same spot where the large one is today, during the flood of ‘93. They built a large wall around it & let it fill with water.

  31. - Peter - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 3:56 pm:


    Press release from earlier today:

    Belleville, IL - U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL) was originally scheduled to travel with Senator Dick Durbin and Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) Director, Jonathon Monken, to tour the levees and high water areas in Southern Illinois. Costello has opted to stay with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to survey the area, from the Metro-East to Cairo.

    Costello will view the affected levees and high water areas, both from the air and on the ground, with Colonel Thomas O’Hara, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District.

    Congressman Costello will be available to take calls from members of the media later this afternoon.

  32. - Secret Square - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 3:58 pm:

    KFVS TV in Cape Girardeau reports (on its website) that the mayor of Cairo is “strongly” urging all residents to evacuate within the next 24 hours.

  33. - HappyToaster - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 4:12 pm:

    1,000,000 cfs is nothing to be fooling around in court with.

    The COE put off using the Morganza LA Floodway in 1973 due to agricultural interests and nearly lost the Old River Control Structure.

    John McPhee’s Atchafalaya is an excellent primer:

    Bottom line for the COE is keeping the current lower Mississippi river course intact. Push too much water downstream too fast and both Baton Rouge and New Orleans are no longer on the river.

  34. - IIS Radio - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 4:16 pm:

    Great flood coverage today Rich! Those pictures are so sad.

  35. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 4:36 pm:

    I’ll second the great coverage, Rich.

    You’d think the World’s Greatest Newspaper, along with it’s radio or TV outlets, could together scrounge up the change to rent a car or something to get a crew on the ground.

    If they’re not going to make the effort, maybe they can take a break from the endless sanctimonious editorials and turgid Kass columns on all-things-Illinois and resume sending photographers and reporters to local playgrounds in Naperville and Highland Park to cover their zone editions.

  36. - Sportsman - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 5:02 pm:

    Where’s Quinn? Every other elected official is highly engaged here. Quinn’s excuse is he couldn’t find a place to land - what a joke.

  37. - Peter - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 5:02 pm:

    More on Costello in Cairo:

    Carbondale, IL - U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL) spent all day Thursday and Thursday evening in Grand Tower and Jackson County, meeting with officials to coordinate relief efforts.

    On Friday, Congressman Costello spent all afternoon with Colonel Thomas O’Hara, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District and other Corps personnel to get an aerial view of the waterway system from the Metro East to Cairo. Costello then met with Cairo Mayor, Judson Childs, and spoke with emergency management officials.

    “While there are sand boils in various areas of the system, the Corps and local levee officials appear to have matters under control,” said Costello. “Everyone is doing their best, working together to prevent major flooding throughout the system. A lot will depend on weather conditions in the next several days.”

    Costello intends to continue getting frequent updates on the situation, daily. For now, he says, “I intend to stay out of the way of the professionals doing their jobs and will continue to respond to officials when needed.”

    Costello did not hold a press conference on Thursday or Friday but is available to speak to the media if they have questions.

  38. - Vote Quimby! - Saturday, Apr 30, 11 @ 12:05 am:

    I drove east from Poplar Bluff on US 60 (down to two-lanes is several stretches due to flooding)this evening and there are hundreds of homes flooded in view of the highway. National Guard had helicopters flying into a command post in Sikeston. I wanted to try and see Cairo, but it was getting dark and lots of water around. It’s bad there, folks. When you hit your knees, say a prayer for them no matter which side of the rivers they live…

  39. - LOL - Saturday, Apr 30, 11 @ 10:28 am:

    Maybe if the “NEW” Region 11 Coordinator left his office even once to see the devistation, (which he has not) then he could learn some things from the LOCALS……We work differently than the “STATE” of Illinois does. We get involved

  40. - Marion Resident - Saturday, Apr 30, 11 @ 10:57 am:

    FYI - The IEMA Chief of Operations DID have the opportunity to hire someone for the Coordinator poition in Marion that lives here, knows all the Local EMA personnel, actually held that position for 3 plus years, and did an amazing job……..however, thanks to political favors, chose to hire his “buddy”, one who has NO State Emergency experience. Good luck with that!!!!!

  41. - JBak - Sunday, May 1, 11 @ 11:09 am:

    As a bottom farmer who has experienced floods along the Missouri River, you are correct in a sense. Over thousands of years small “creeping floods” did replenish the bottom ground. On the other hand If the levee was blown today, a column of water 20 feet high and 2 miles wide would come rushing into the fields with the power of god behind it. The water would carve a canyon over 60 feet deep and over 2 miles wide in the bottom farmers fields. This canyon sounds pretty bad, but its monetary cost would pale in comparison to the cost of removing the millions of tons of sand that would be deposited upon the fields. My question is why not blow some levees on the Illinois side of the river?

  42. - Rich Miller - Sunday, May 1, 11 @ 4:48 pm:

    ===My question is why not blow some levees on the Illinois side of the river?===

    The federal government owns the right to flood that Missouri land. The levee is designed specifically for that. There are no fuseplug levees on the IL side to my knowledge that would do the same thing. Plus, you have no people in that area. We do. Deal with it.

  43. - Alittle Late - Thursday, May 19, 11 @ 4:18 pm:

    New Reg 11 Regional Coordinator out there trying to “make up” with local EMA’s. What a joke. The smart ones are going to realize you will now TRY and behave till you get through your probationary period. BTW….Do you have any NIMS Training or your IPEM? No you don’t, but the other person you intervied against did. How many times can political favors be looked over in the State of Illinois. So Sad.

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