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Some see signs of hope

While Mississippi is yet to crest in some areas, in others it has stopped rising below record levels.

The Mississippi River meanders through Main Street in downtown LaGrange, Mo., Saturday. Residents of river towns throughout Missouri and Illinois are watching the river as flooding continues throughout the region.

AP photo

LOUISIANA, Mo. — The faithful gathered for church services Sunday in towns hard-hit by flooding along the Mississippi River, and many found comfort in word that the swollen waterway had apparently started to hit its high point.

Dozens of parishioners filled the dry Centenary United Methodist Church in Louisiana, a few blocks from floodwaters that still cover about 15 percent of the town’s neighborhoods.

It appeared Sunday the flooding in the town and elsewhere in Missouri and Illinois could soon give way to recovery. The National Weather Service said the Mississippi was cresting Sunday at Canton, Mo., not far from the Iowa state line, through the lock and dam near Saverton, about 100 miles north of St. Louis. Crests were forecast for today in Louisiana and Clarksville.

“It’s quieter compared to earlier this week,” said Louisiana emergency management director Mike Lesley, adding that sandbagging in the town had largely ceased. “Last night, I actually got some sleep.”

But elsewhere, the river was still rising. The latest forecasts for hard-hit Winfield and Grafton, Ill., pushed back the crest to Wednesday.

Officials in Lincoln County, Mo., inspected levees near Winfield by air Sunday after one was overtopped earlier in the day, flooding about 1,000 acres and fewer than half a dozen homes, said Lincoln County emergency management spokesman Andy Binder.

“It just blew through our sandbags,” Binder said, adding that authorities are confident the secondary levees protecting the town and nearby Elsberry will hold.

Several miles down the river in Grafton, the floodwaters continued to spread deeper into the 650-resident village, heavily dependent on tourism. The town’s main road — the Great River Road — was impassable in some stretches, limiting access to businesses.

When the river does crest in Grafton, it’s expected to do so at 29.5 feet — roughly 9 feet below the record mark set during the Great Flood of ’93. In St. Louis, where the river continued to flow at crest levels Sunday, it was more than 12 feet below the ’93 record.

While not record-setting, the devastation was still widespread: The storms and flooding that started in early June have forced thousands from their homes across six states, killing 24 and injuring roughly 150. Rural areas such as Lincoln County, Mo., suffered the worst. There, more than 300 homes were flooded after more than 90 percent of the county’s levees were overtopped.

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