Missouri Small Towns Take Brunt of Floods

As levees break upstream, waters in St. Louis expected to crest lower.

Hundreds of Missouri residents joined the dismal fraternity of the flood-ravaged as water breached three levees along the Mississippi yesterday just north of St. Louis in Lincoln County.

The mighty Mississippi overflowed 90 percent of the levees in eastern Lincoln County, rushing into tiny Foley, Mo., and toward other towns throughout the county, according to the Associated Press.

Residents further south of the levee breaches, including those in St. Louis, are expected to benefit from their neighbors' misfortune as National Weather Service predictions for the flood's crest there have lowered significantly.

Jim Kramper, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, warns, however, that the danger is still very real.

"There will still be a lot of places with major flooding," Kramper told the AP. "Even at the levels we're expecting now, a lot of places are threatened."

To make matters worse, scattered thunderstorms are expected in Missouri and Iowa this weekend.

Government officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency said they are confident that there are "sufficient resources" to handle further flooding.

"The FEMA of today is not the FEMA of 2005. We took the lessons of Katrina and applied them," said Glenn Cannon, assistant administrator in the Disaster Operations Directorate of FEMA. "We have risen to the level that the public expects from us."

Though the flooding crisis is more than a week old, officials claim FEMA is now an "active" agency rather than "reactive," citing the 3.6 million liters of drinking water, nearly 200,000 Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and nearly 13 million sandbags FEMA and its partners have deployed in flooded or endangered areas. And more help is on the way.

According to David Garratt, FEMA deputy assistant administrator, more than 33,000 applications for individual assistance have been filed with FEMA, each of which is received and answered in an average of "10 seconds or less."

The agency has to balance reconstructive operations in areas that have already been flooded with emergency response operations in endangered areas downstream, Garratt said.

"We have met every requirement. There have been no shortfalls," Garratt said. "We think we're going to be able to meet whatever requirements that are going to emerge."

Additionally, on Wednesday, Congress agreed to allocate $2 billion in disaster relief for those hit hardest by the flooding.

Garratt also emphasized the value of individual contributions in greatly assisting FEMA in emergency response, especially in meeting the demand for temporary housing.

"Thanks to that great Midwesterly neighborliness, requirements on our shoulders are much less than you'd expect," Garratt said.

Along with providing shelter for those left out of their homes, volunteers also are flocking in from near and far to do what they can to help.

Susan Lubbe told "Good Morning America" that she drove from Chicago to her hometown of Quincy, Ill., along with her boyfriend, to help fill sandbags.

"My house is past help. So we're trying to save everybody else's," said Bethany Frank, as she helped fill sandbags in a church parking lot in Oakville, Iowa. Her home on the outskirts of town was flooded up to the roof.

Trucking company owners Trina and Ward Gabeline gathered more than 30 trucks to help Oakville families load their belongings and carry them to higher ground.

"We didn't do it expecting to get paid," Trina Gabeline told the AP. "We did it to help the people. Because these things that are in these trailers, that's the only thing these people have left right now."

The volunteers were joined by nearly 2,000 National Guard members that have been deployed in parts of Missouri, Illinois and Iowa.

Although more than 20 levees have been overcome and many have given way, Hank Dehaan, the Army Corps of Engineers' program manager for the Rock Island, Ill., district, said the levees are in good shape and are not failing in the face of water pressure against them.

Dehaan said the problem is that once the floodwaters top a levee and flow down the other side, the rushing water washes away the base of the levee, causing it at times to crumble.

Though so many levees have been toppled, the key to protecting the remaining ones is simple to many: Work hard.

"There's one thing about Midwesterners," Don Giltner, mayor of Louisiana, Mo., told the AP. "We're resilient as hell. We're all worn out. We've put in a lot of long days."

In the city of Louisiana, 40 square blocks are underwater, a full three days before the Mississippi River is expected to crest.

In Clarksville, Mo., where tourists are invited to "touch the Mississippi," people like Helen Mirick pray the river doesn't touch them.

"It's important to save our little town," she told "GMA."

Not everyone is as confident as the FEMA officials.

"I really don't have much of an opinion of his coming," Lashawn Baker, 33, told the AP about President Bush's visit. Baker's family was starting to clean her flooded home in a hard-hit southwest Cedar Rapids neighborhood. "It took him a long time to get to New Orleans and he didn't help any of those people, so I don't think he's going to do anything to help Cedar Rapids now that he's here."

So far, the flooding has caused 24 deaths, 148 injuries and more than $1.5 billion in estimated damage in Iowa alone.