MORE heavy rains were forecast for flooded Midwest areas, just as river levels were beginning to subside. CROPCAST Services, a private forecasting firm, said up to 5 1/2 inches of rain were expected to soak the region by late this weekend. Forecaster Jim Candor, of Accu-Weather Inc., predicted the same from the Mississippi westward. And rain was heavy in parts of the area Wednesday night and into yesterday.
The gloomy forecast posed the threat of further flooding. River engineers are keeping watch on hundreds of miles of levees in the Midwest, afraid that the flood walls - mushy from long exposure to high, surging water - will disintegrate. (View from the levees, Page 10.)
"We are going to have another crest coming down," said Larry Crump, Army Corps of Engineers spokesman in Kansas City, Mo., along the Missouri River. "I don't know when it is going to come, but it is a pattern that has repeated itself over and over and over."
Weakened levees were holding in south St. Louis Wednesday and early yesterday, however, after repairs from breaks earlier in the week.
In Des Moines, officials said yesterday that the water system was ready, and office workers got the all-clear to return, provided their fire sprinklers work. Water is to only be used for bathing, flushing toilets, washing dishes, and flood cleanup. Drinking water is expected to be restored in about three weeks, officials said.
The Mississippi is closed to traffic for 535 miles from St. Paul, Minn., to Cairo, Ill. The shutdown began in stages on June 25. United States Transportation Secretary Federico Pena said when the Mississippi is reopened, "barges will create wakes, which will further weaken levees that are very sensitive right now."
Mr. Pena, who was in Keokuk, Iowa, on Wednesday to examine flood damage, said the economic effects of the Midwest disaster are being felt nationwide.
The floods, which began a month and a half ago, have killed at least 31 people, displaced 31,000, destroyed 16,000 square miles of cropland, and caused a minimum of $10 billion in damage to property and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, country-western singer Mary Chapin Carpenter performed a benefit concert for flood victims in St. Louis that raised about $25,000 for the American Red Cross.
WHERE TO SEND AID FOR FLOOD RELIEF American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund P.O. Box 37243 Washington, D.C. 20013 Salvation Army Disaster Relief P.O. Box 1621 Des Moines, Iowa 50306 United Way 1111 9th St., Suite 300 Des Moines, Iowa 50314 Flood Bank 93 1416 Locust Street Des Moines, Iowa 50306
* All of these organizations provide help to the entire Midwest area hit by flooding.