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Flooded Out Bridge Divides Chester, Ill., From Missouri


Some people spent New Year's Eve watching water levels. It's essential if you live near the Mississippi River in the Midwest, a region that has suffered severe and sudden floods. Linda Sympson sees the river from her window at the chamber of commerce in Chester, Ill.

LINDA SYMPSON: Chester is a beautiful town of 8,300 people. We're located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. When we look out my office, the Chester Chamber of Commerce office, I can take advantage of the beautiful view of the river, of Missouri bottomlands, the Chester Bridge that is now closed.

INSKEEP: And why is the Chester Bridge closed, the bridge across the Mississippi River?

SYMPSON: The bridge is closed because after you cross the bridge there is a small bridge, and that bridge is the bridge that is covered with water.

INSKEEP: Lucky that Chester's up on a bluff then.

SYMPSON: We are very, very fortunate, yes. But at one time, there was a whole downtown district under the bluff, a lot of businesses that were flooded out. And little by little, they were bought up by the railroad and the railroad then came in, raised their tracks and built a levee.

INSKEEP: So how isolated is Chester right now?

SYMPSON: We are isolated from being able to get into Missouri, which a lot of our people from Chester work in Missouri. There are several large plants about 12 miles from Chester, and employees - I don't know, several hundred people. And not only can we not cross the bridge to go into Missouri, Missouri people cannot cross the bridge to come here.

INSKEEP: So let's just remember, you are on the Mississippi River, it floods from time to time. How out of the ordinary is this situation that you're in now?

SYMPSON: This is very, I think, out of the ordinary because in 1993, we had weeks to prepare. We knew the river was rising. In this case, people were caught unaware because the rain started last weekend and they - for three days, some places in our area had anywhere from eight to 12 inches of rain in a matter of several days. So our people didn't have the warning weeks ago that you're going to see a major flood.

INSKEEP: Well, Linda Sympson, thanks very much for your time.

SYMPSON: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: And stay dry.

SYMPSON: OK, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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