Faith, hope and recovery along river

The faithful gathered for church services Sunday in towns hard-hit by flooding along the Mississippi River, and many found comfort in word that the swollen waterway had apparently started to hit its high point.

Dozens of parishioners filled the dry Centenary United Methodist Church in Louisiana, a few blocks from floodwaters that still cover about 15 percent of the town's neighborhoods.

They prayed for aid and gave thanks for the volunteers, National Guard soldiers and prison inmates who helped the community of nearly 4,000 in recent days.

“And they all worked,” the Rev. Jeanne Webdell said of the volunteers. “They worked for a cause bigger than themselves, worked to help people that most didn't even know.”

It appeared Sunday the flooding in the town and elsewhere in Missouri and Illinois could soon give way to recovery. The National Weather Service said the Mississippi was cresting Sunday at Canton, Mo., not far from the Iowa state line, through the lock and dam near Saverton, about 100 miles north of St. Louis. Crests were forecast for today in Louisiana and Clarksville.

But elsewhere, the river was still rising. The latest forecasts for hard-hit Winfield and Grafton, Ill., pushed back the crest to Wednesday.

“We're just trying to deal with it as it comes to us,” said Jamie Scott, a dispatcher with the Jersey County, Ill., Sheriff's Office. “The crest (forecast) has dropped almost a foot, so that's a good thing. … All of our levees are holding.”

Officials in Lincoln County, Mo., inspected levees by air Sunday after one was overtopped, flooding about 1,000 acres and fewer than half a dozen homes, said Lincoln County emergency management spokesman Andy Binder.

While not record-setting, the devastation was widespread: Storms and flooding that started in early June have forced thousands from their homes across six states, killing 24. Areas such as Lincoln County, Mo., suffered the worst. There, more than 300 homes were flooded after most of the county's levees were overtopped.