2 rivers seep into Alexander Co., IL as Ohio River hits major flooding mark

2 rivers seep into Alexander Co., IL as Ohio River hits major flooding mark
Mike Mohundro KFVS

ALEXANDER COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers are seeping into Alexander County on Tuesday as the Ohio River slides past the major flooding mark.

This will likely continue as the river levels rise over the coming days and the water will remain an issue until river levels drop considerably.

Fortunately for Alexander County, this flooding event right now isn't nearly as bad as past flooding events such as the record-breaking 2011 Ohio River flood and the record-breaking 2016 Mississippi River flood.

However, those cities upstream from Cairo, such as Metropolis and Louisville, are seeing major problems.

For Alexander County residents, not one home is being affected according to Alexander County EMA Coordinator Mike Turner.

Upon the cusp of the Ohio River entering into the major flooding stage, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have ramped up their response to the second stage of their flood fighting efforts.

Engineers were checking on relief wells and also addressing any troubled areas.

Crews were both on the Mississippi River side of Cairo and the Ohio side walking along and flagging sand boils.

"You have such high water on one side of the levee and the land is so much lower on the other side," Army Corps of Engineers Civil Engineer Joshua Giannini said. "There's a lot of potential for water to seep under the levee and spring up on the back side."

In just a 30-minute span, crews located six sand boils in one section north of Cairo along the Ohio River.

"If a sand boil is flowing enough, it will start moving the soil that's underneath the levee out from under the levee and could cause the levee to collapse on top of it," Giannini said.

It's not only about reducing the seepage of water through these boils but also what the water brings with it that is important.

"If the water is clear, that's an indication that you do have seepage coming through. If it's clear, it's not picking up the soil as it's moving," Giannini added. "When it starts to get cloudy and sandy and starts to form a cone around where the water is coming out, then that's an indication that it's starting to undermine the levee."

Engineers are also checking on relief wells, pump stations, monitoring the flood walls, as well as, monitoring the interior drainage for the water to get back out into the rivers.

"Keeping the river out is one thing but then when you have major rain events you need to evacuate that water from behind the levee," Giannini said.

A little north in the county on the Mississippi River side you will find much more water flooding the area.

Water is coming through slowly through a gap in the Lens Small Levee which broke during the 2015-2016 New Year Flood.

It hasn't been repaired since.

Turner said that water entering the county is not doing any additional damage to the lands or roads at this time that wasn't damaged by previous floods. He said the water is coming in slowly and does not have a heavy current this time.

Still, the floodwaters are washing up over a couple of roads and causing some minor travel issues.

As for the Army Corps of Engineers, they have implemented more technology and have made improvements since 2011 when the Ohio River hit 61.72-feet and caused historic flooding across the area.

"There's been a tremendous amount of improvements made in the area," Giannini added. "A lot of different methods to deal with the seepage under the levee have been implemented here. We've had a lot of success. There's still some areas that we are focusing on and work that we have to do."

Overall, Giannini said working with the river and levees is always a learning process as they continue to fight these floods time and time again.

"Levees are something you don't just build and forget them," Giannini said. "You need to monitor them and make sure they are performing as intended. And if there are any problems, we need to take corrective action and to make sure they are kept up to the standard that we require."

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