WINFIELD, MO. — Water from the swollen Mississippi River surged over more than 10 levees Thursday, flooding huge swaths of Missouri farmland as thousands of volunteers continued to pile sandbags in a desperate bid to protect their communities.
The efforts brought mixed results in Winfield, a rural and commuter city of 1,200 about an hour north of St. Louis.
Lincoln County officials said late Thursday that downtown Winfield had been saved, but some neighborhoods close to the river or outside the town's internal levee system were considered lost. About 350 homes had been flooded.
"The entire eastern part of the county is underwater, and the water keeps on rising," said Cpl. Andy Binder, spokesman for the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department.
In the Winfield Acres area, water was slowly rising and by evening was waist-high.
Roger Collier, 50, stood on the deck behind his house watching water creep across a cornfield. "I guess I'll wait and see what happens," he said.
Severe storms and flooding have killed 24 people and injured 148 in six states and forced tens of thousands to evacuate. Federal agencies have distributed enough drinking water for 1.1 million people, as well as 12.8 million sandbags, 2,500 tarps and 4,000 rolls of plastic sheeting.
Though the flood has receded in many places, the water is flowing downstream, and the Mississippi continues to rise.
The river is expected to crest today near Hannibal, Mo., and Saturday in Clarksville and St. Louis. The flood risk is lessened in St. Louis because the river widens there and meets tributaries with lower-than-normal water levels.
Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency say they are beginning to work on longer-term recovery efforts, such as removal of debris and moving people into temporary housing.
Times staff writers P.J. Huffstutter in Iowa, Jenny Jarvie in Atlanta and Nicole Gaouette in Washington contributed to this report.