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Agriculture

Midwest battles flood waters

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Water-logged residents of the Midwest desperately shored up levees holding back rising rivers on Wednesday, while others abandoned their homes to the flood waters.

Dale Davis declined a friend’s offer of a motel room and vowed to guard his home that had been inundated by the swollen Four Mile Creek in Des Moines, ruining his kitchen appliances.

“I’m staying in my van because I still have a few valuable things left,” Davis said. “I’m not going to leave my place unless the water runs me clear out.”

Rain fell in Des Moines, where water burst from storm sewers and flooded restaurants and a government building in the business district. Water released from a reservoir was expected to swell the Des Moines River that bisects the city.

This year’s spring deluge led some to compare it to the disaster of 1993 when the Mississippi River and its tributaries turned parts of the nation’s midsection into a gigantic lake.

Northeast of Des Moines, the Cedar River swamped parts of Waterloo and Waverly, and prompted an all-night vigil in the city of Cedar Falls where sandbagging continued in earnest.

Donita Dettmer’s hilltop home on the edge of Waverly remained dry, though she said she had never before seen the river submerge the adjacent highway.

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“We’re fairly lucky,” Dettmer said, in contrast to scores of neighbors displaced by the flooding.

Many people staying in motels had seen their homes destroyed in a deadly May 25 tornado that leveled Parkersburg and New Hartford.

Authorities went door-to-door in downtown Cedar Rapids, downstream on the Cedar River, to tell people to leave. The small towns of Palo and Chelsea were evacuated.

BAD FOR BUSINESS

Businesses in the region took a hit and many people gave up trying to get to their jobs for now.

Corn prices hit a record high, as meteorologists predicted another batch of thunderstorms would douse sodden farmland later this week.

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“Even if it is drier next week it won’t matter now. It’s too late to plant corn,” said Vic Lespinasse of grainanalyst.com.

The Mississippi River was also expected to rise.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was closing locks and dams on 200 miles of the upper portion of the vital commercial waterway on Thursday, possibly through early July.

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Tyson Foods Inc shut down its pork slaughtering plant at Columbus Junction, Iowa, because flood waters prevented workers from reaching the facility.

Dams across the Midwest were being monitored for signs of weakening and spillways on many reservoirs were overtopped.

Tens of thousands of people were without power in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois since violent weekend storms dumped rain and spawned tornadoes.

The White River in central Indiana breached a levee guarding the town of Capeheart, forcing out residents.

The 9,000 people in the village of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, were staying put for now, though the rising waters of Lake Pewaukee had swallowed up the town’s beach and was lapping up against lakeside restaurants.

There was a stench from dead fish that swam onto flooded village streets from the expanding lake.

“We’ve been out there with pitchforks, shovels, even our hands, catching hundreds of them,” village clerk Susan Atherton said by telephone.

Additional reporting by Bob Burgdorfer, Lisa Shumaker and Julie Ingwersen; Writing by Andrew Stern; Editing by John O’Callaghan

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