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FLOOD THREAT FORCES EVACUATIONS IN ILLINOIS

SHARE FLOOD THREAT FORCES EVACUATIONS IN ILLINOIS

The last holdouts were evacuated Friday from an Illinois town threatened by record flooding on the Mississippi River, and storms poured more rain on parts of the upper Midwest that feed the huge waterway.

Recreational boaters were ordered off a stretch of the rapidly flowing river for the holiday weekend.Several locks had been reopened along the Minnesota-Wisconsin stretch of the river, but shippers losing an estimated $1 million a day were still effectively shut down because locks remained closed south to St. Louis, the Army Corps of Engineers said.

Thunderstorms during the night hit southern Minnesota, and Gov. Arne Carlson called out the National Guard to help control traffic Friday.

Three inches of rain fell within an hour in Norwood, Minn., about 25 miles west of Minneapolis, and parts of Wisconsin also got up to 3 inches of rain.

Despite sandbagging by volunteers and the National Guard up and down the river, water still threatened homes and businesses in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

The last of the 500 residents of the village of Gulfport, Ill., were evacuated Friday because of the failure of a levee a few miles away, although a levee protecting the town was expected to hold.

Authorities were not so confident downstream in Niota, Ill., where water was bubbling through a levee and endangering about 350 residents.

"It looks bad," said Jack Curfman, Hancock County disaster agency official. "We've strongly suggested everyone evacuate."

He said about 200 residents of Pontoosuc, on the river side of a levee, were surrounded by water. "Most don't want to leave," Curfman said. "They live in cabins, trailers and modest houses. But it's home to them."

The Mississippi had dropped a foot at Prairie du Chien, Wis., since Thursday, when it ran nearly 6 feet above flood stage. But authorities said it must drop 18 inches more before thousands of sandbags can be removed and 10 evacuated families return home.

Flooding at Prairie du Chien cost $900,000, according to the state Division of Emergency Government.