Sandbagging effort fails to protect Missouri town

WINFIELD, Missouri (AP) -- A makeshift sandbag levee holding back the Mississippi River failed early Saturday, and authorities said part of Winfield, Missouri, was evacuated.
Floodwaters cover Highway 79 leading into Winfield, Missouri, on Saturday.

Floodwaters cover Highway 79 leading into Winfield, Missouri, on Saturday.

Water began flowing under the 4-foot-high barrier about 4:30 a.m. An alarm sounded, and the few residents remaining in the flood plain were ordered to get out.

"It was a valiant effort," said Chris Azar of the Winfield-Foley Fire Department. "It's unfortunate that we couldn't do more, but Mother Nature won. Now, just give it time for the water to recede."

On Friday, the Pin Oak levee that protected part of the town of 720 residents gave way, and within hours, the National Guard began constructing the makeshift levee around a cluster of about 100 homes. That new levee had a steel frame with layers of dirt, plastic and sandbags. Hundreds of volunteers had filled sandbags for the effort.

The new barrier appeared to be holding well until Saturday morning.

Azar said that at least 60 homes in the cluster were immediately affected by the new flooding, although authorities were still assessing the damage. Evacuees are mostly staying with relatives or friends, though a few were staying at a Red Cross shelter set up at the high school.

Many other homes in Winfield sit on a hill above the river and are well out of harm's way.

Winfield, 45 miles northwest of St. Louis, is in Lincoln County, which has been particularly hard hit by flooding caused by torrential rain that fell across the Midwest in early June.