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Mo. still fighting floods

A tractor-trailer cab sits partially submerged in flood water from the Meramec River at the intersection of State Route 141 and Interstate 44 in Fenton, Mo., Saturday.

AP photos

Curious cyclists visit the flooded intersection of Missouri State Route 141 and Interstate 44.

VALLEY PARK, Mo. — Residents of small towns along the Meramec River breathed a sigh of relief Saturday as the stream finally crested following days of flooding caused by torrential rainfall across the Midwest.

At Valley Park, the river rose to a peak of 37.8 feet Saturday morning, well above the flood stage of 16 feet but still below the record of 39.7 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

It was the first trial of the town’s $49 million levee, which stands a few feet above Saturday’s crest and was designed to withstand the biggest flood that might be expected in a century.

“It’s a 100-year event, and it’s a 100-year levee,” said Army Corps of Engineers Col. Lewis Setliff. “It got tested, and it passed.”

Elsewhere, rivers were still rising in southwest Illinois and parts of Arkansas, chasing people from their homes and into shelters. Rivers had mostly begun receding in Ohio.

At least 16 deaths have been linked to the weather over the past week, and two people are missing in Arkansas.

Thousands of people in Missouri had fled to Red Cross shelters or to the homes of friends or relatives.

Much of the flooding in Illinois was in sparsely populated areas, but several dozen people were evacuated from their homes in Murphysboro on Saturday, said Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

“For some of these places, this is their 500-year flood,” she said.

Authorities were keeping an eye on a levee near Grand Tower, Ill., because of a threat that the Big Muddy River could breach it and threaten the town of about 750 people.

In addition to this past week’s rain, more snow blew through parts of the Upper Midwest on Saturday, a day after as much as a foot of snow canceled some Good Friday services in parts of southern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota.

In Chicago, flights were mostly back on schedule by Saturday afternoon at both O’Hare and Midway airports, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation. About 200 travelers were stranded overnight at O’Hare.

Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport reopened late Saturday morning after being closed overnight because of the snow. About 200 people had to spend the night at the terminal, said airport spokeswoman Pat Rowe.

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