The swollen Mississippi River continued to spread destruction Thursday, surging over nearly a dozen levees in the St. Louis area and flooding vast areas of farmland, as the region's growing crisis pushed corn and soy prices toward record levels.
St. Louis is the next major city in the path of the surging river, which is expected to crest at 40 feet there on Saturday. Because the river widens near St. Louis and connects with several tributaries, damage there is expected to be minimal.
Still, the threat was great enough to prompt the city to relocate its annual Independence Day fair and festival for the first time. Concerns were also raised about levees on the opposite side of the river.
Thousands of acres of Missouri farmland were flooded after a levee was breached late Wednesday east of Winfield, a town about 50 miles north of St. Louis. On Thursday, another levee was breached, and officials said 300 homes were flooded or surrounded by water.
“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.
Since the flooding began, at least 23 levees have been breached – 11 of them in the St. Louis area – and as many as 30 more remain in peril. Already, severe storms and flooding have killed 24 people and injured 148 in six states and forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes.
Damage estimates for farmland in the Midwest ranged from 2million to 5 million acres, pushing corn prices close to a record price of $8 a bushel.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is said to be planning a thorough review of the damage later this month. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times contributed.