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Nervous Midwest Watches Mississippi River

CAIRO, Ill. (CN) - A mandatory evacuation of Cairo remains in place despite the Army Corps of Engineers' blowing up a levee, letting floodwaters ravage 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland in an effort to save the town in its neighboring states. The Corps of Engineers is allowing Cairo's 2,800 residents to check on their property from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but they cannot stay overnight.

The Corps of Engineers is still concerned about pressure on the town's levee, which is on the Ohio River upstream from the Mississippi. The river was expected to crest today, and remain at dangerously high levels through midweek.

The evacuation may not be lifted for a few more days, Cairo Fire Department Chief John Meyer said.

Southeast Missouri received 10 to 24 inches of rain in late April, pushing the river to its highest level in 75 years.

In Corps of Engineers blew up a 2-mile-wide section of the Bird's Point levee on week ago today (Tuesday) to reduce pressure on Cairo.

The blast unleashed floodwaters into the 132,000-acre New Madrid Floodway, which put farms and about 100 homes underwater.

Missouri officials tried to stop the plan in Federal Court, calling it arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Clean Water Act, as the flood would release toxic farming chemicals into the environment.

But U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. refused to halt the plan. Missouri appealed to the 8th Circuit Court, which supported the Corps of Engineers.

The legal wrangling sparked a war of words between Missouri and Illinois officials that included both states' governors and attorneys general.

Before the detonation, Carlin Bennett, presiding commissioner of Mississippi County, estimated that damages would come close to $1 billion.

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