It's high drama along the Mississippi River these days -- as the river reached near record levels last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the difficult decision to blow up a levee and flood acres of Missouri farmland in order to save the town of Cairo, Illinois.
|The big worry may be about the Mississippi River flooding Memphis right now, but the area outside of Cairo, Illinois, was pretty wet Saturday.|
We had a chance to drive down to tip of the Missouri Bootheel this weekend, dropping into tiny Campbell, Missouri, which is practically in Arkansas. After making our way across state highways that had been closed due to flooding, we were able survey the peach trees (mighty fine!) before crossing into Illinois and, following the swollen river, make our way up Highway 3 back toward St. Louis.
|Some roads on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River were closed after the Army Corps blew up a nearby levee.|
And of course we stopped in Cairo.
|Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers, the middle of Cairo was dry, but the edges, close to the river banks, were a different story.|
At the time of our visit, the town was eerily quiet. As Daily RFT's Chad Garrison has detailed previously in this blog, Cairo's population has taken a major hit in recent decades, and the once-bustling city would probably look a bit empty even if its entire population of 2,831 was in residence.
|Downtown Cairo has an abundance of boarded-up buildings, reflecting the area's severe population loss in recent decades.|
But on Saturday, it was even more empty than usual: The town had been evacuated, and we didn't see a soul other than state troopers, a few Cairo police officers and workers using a backhoe to shore up the rocks around the railroad tracks. The river at the edge of town was lapping at the rows of sandbags along its banks, but it seemed clear that (thanks to the Army Corps and the blown levee) the biggest threat to this town was in the rearview mirror.
|One of the few signs of life in Cairo, Illinois, Saturday: Workers shoring up the railroad tracks with extra rocks.|