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Volunteers unite; Clarksville flood walls holding for now

Posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Americorps crew members showed up in Clarksville Thursday, July 3 to start filling sandbags after it became apparent that the town needed help.

Americorps crew members showed up in Clarksville Thursday, July 3 to start filling sandbags after it became apparent that the town needed help.

Clarksville residents went into high gear to battle the Flood of 2014 last week after the city’s Board of Aldermen voted against funding to fight receding waters, fearing it would bankrupt the historic community.
Front Street merchants and others banded together to build several flood walls and save the businesses and some homes in historic downtown Clarksville.
By Tuesday, July 8, the makeshift walls of sand, plastic and rock were holding as Front Street flooded and waters backed up into town on Washington and Howard streets. Pumps were sending water out of some basements as the Mississippi River rose.
“Everything’s holding up and looking good,” said City Clerk Jennifer Calvin.
On Monday, July 7, prisoners from the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green arrived to place sandbags around the CBC Bank, which was getting surrounded by the swollen waters of the Town Branch.
An emergency response crew from Americorps in St. Louis had shown up earlier in the week to help with the effort downtown.
The effort wasn’t official because of the lack of city involvement, but the crew felt compelled to respond to the flood anyway, according to Americorps member Andrew Coleman.
“We knew they needed help and they’re on our radar,” when the Mississippi starts rising.
LaCrosse Lumber store Manager Melinda St. Clair was appreciative of the effort to build a flood wall around her store and the Post Office next door on Front Street between Virginia and Main Cross streets.
“You build it up and you don’t have to worry about getting everything out and then coming back to redo your floors,” she said.
If not for the wall, the rising waters would have come through the front doors of the business by Thursday, July 3.
“My customers are my saviors,” St. Clair  said. “We didn’t shut down for the 2008 and 2013 floods, so we definitely won’t shut down for the 2014 flood.”
Crest Thursday
The river is expected to crest at Clarksville at 35.2 feet by Thursday morning, July 10, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). That’s more than 20 feet above flood stage and just below the high water mark of 35.3 feet reached on April 22, 2013.
That would make the Flood of 2014 the fifth worst in recorded Clarksville history, with 2013 being the fourth worst.
The worst flood in Clarksville history occurred in July 1993 when the river hit 37.73 feet.
While the NWS was predicting the river would start receding on Friday, July 11, a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain over the weekend could keep water levels higher than predicted.
Hwy. 79 is closed on the north and south ends of Clarksville.
Hwy. W was closed between Third Street and Hwy. 79 on July 7, but city residents were driving around the waters through other side streets.