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Midwest Skies Are Clearing, but the Rivers Are Still Rising

THE Mississippi and Missouri rivers slopped over levees this weekend, threatening a repeat of the historic mess they made in 1993. The rivers meet in St. Charles County, where residents were urged to evacuate after a break in a levee along the Missouri, county emergency management spokeswoman Petra Haws said.

But residents of the region are hoping for the best. Fair skies that have slowed the rise of rain-swollen rivers are also raising hopes that there won't be a repeat of the drastic 1993 flood.

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Nearly 400 residents of West Alton, Ill., were forced out of their homes Sunday when the Mississippi topped a levee there. Sandbaggers heard a loud roar as the water stormed across a highway.

''Here we go again,'' Haws said. West Alton was submerged to its roofs in '93. Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) took an aerial tour of the area Saturday. The state is looking to the federal government for money for damage and cleanup, Mr. Carnahan said. No damage estimate was immediately available.

Down the Mississippi at Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Scott Gross watched as heavy machinery dumped tons of rock and dirt on a levee holding back the high water.

''It's wierd to go through this again,'' Mr. Gross said. ''But we've got to have a place to live.''

Vern Bauman, president of the levee district, couldn't agree more. ''I must be one of the oldest guys on earth,'' Bauman said. ''They told us '93 was the 500-year flood, and here we are again. I must be 800 years old.''

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