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COPING WITH THE FLOOD: DETERMINED QUINCY REFUSES TO LET SURGING MISSISSIPPI OVERPOWER FABIUS LEVEE.

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Quincy suffered a hard right and then a left when the Mississippi overflowed two levees and flooded 28,000 acres of farmland.

But the town was determined to dodge the knockout punch by keeping the river from taking the Fabius levee and, with it, the only working bridge across the Mississippi for a 212-mile stretch."We're determined not to let that happen," said Mayor Chuck Scholz. "Somewhere between 35 and 40 percent of our economy rolls over that bridge."

"It's been a battle. It was a battle last night and will be a battle tonight and tomorrow."

Other communities in Illinois and three other Midwestern states were fighting the same battle as unrelenting rain worsened flooding Wednesday.

Quincy actually is one of the few places along the 52-mile levee in Adams County not in danger of serious flooding. It sits atop a bluff that protects it from the worst the Mississippi can throw at it.

But areas around the city have no such protection. They include the waste treatment plant along the river, the access roads leading to the Bayview Bridge and areas where many major employers have manufacturing plants.

City officials worried that flooding could shut down the treatment plant, threatening the water supply for 40,000 residents and the more than 9,000 volunteers and refugees who have flocked to the besieged town.

The plant was designed to process 76 million gallons of water a day, but in recent days has handled 150 million gallons. Offficials feared more flooding could overload the system or could get into the treatment plant itself.

"We've had people working around the clock," Scholz said. "I saw two girls waiting for the (volunteers') bus, no more than 8 and 10, standing there with shovels in their hands. I just about lost it."

The Fabius levee - with much human help - was holding back the surging river, which was expected to crest at 32 feet today, 15 feet above flood stage.

Two thousand people - National Guardsmen, inmates, members of the Army Corps of En-gi-neers and volunteers from as far as Kentucky - spent much of Wednesday shoring up the levee with sandbags and plastic.

"These folks just refuse to give up," said Jessie Whitefield, a Corps spokeswoman. "Most other levees have given way or become overtopped. It's sheer willpower."

At a disaster center opened by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, manager Cliff Snedeker said, "It's going to get worse before it gets better."

City officials are scrambling to accommodate the influx of emergency workers, volunteers and the newly homeless, housing them in dorms and people's homes.