AP: Devastating flood possible in Missouri town if decades old levee cant hold back swelling Mississippi
JASON BRONIS, ASSOCIATED PRESS (VOICEOVER): Neon-striped stakes mark a hypothetical riverbank, one that leaves hundreds of homes submerged.
JOE CLARK, MAYOR, CANTON, MO (VOICEOVER): That would be the worst that could happen.
BRONIS: It’s a grim prediction, and it will come true if this town’s levee doesn’t hold back the mighty Mississippi.
CLARK (ON CAMERA): If you don’t have total confidence in our levee and you’re scared at all, you know, you’re free to evacuate if you want to.
BRONIS: Shawn Peterson will take that offer. The former Californian moved into a home near the levee just three months ago.
SHAWN PETERSON, RESIDENT: I’d take an earthquake over this any day, you know. With the earthquake, I mean, it just comes, and it lasts for a couple of seconds, and it’s a done deal, and then you clean up and you get back to living. This, I mean, if it goes over, it’s destroying homes and destroying families, and it’s going to take months to get back to normal life.
BRONIS: But can’t and won’t go down without a fight. Some 1,800 volunteers have spent days filling sandbags. Schoolteacher Susan Job has lived here since 1984.
SUSAN JOB, RESIDENT: You can’t just sit and do nothing. So you feel like when you’re helping that we’re giving it our all.
BRONIS: Atop the 24-foot levee, army national guards here with the 1438th Engineer Company helped build a five-foot extension that should beat the projected crest. And though businesses in the shadow of the levee are largely abandoned, most here say they’re sticking it out.
DARLA GAUS, RESIDENT: We’re just staying. It’s my house. I own it, and we’re staying.
BRONIS: Folks here in Canton have good reason to be confident in their levee. It was one of the few here along the Mississippi River that stood up against the last historic flood in 1993. It’s why the mayor of this town is as confident as he can be that 2008 will turn out the same way.
CLARK: Well, I think things are going, actually, smoother this time than they did in 1993. So my level of confidence is very high.
BRONIS: Will this 40-year-old levee stand strong again? The answer should come by the end of the week. Jason Bronis, the Associated Press, Canton, Missouri.
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