Jail inmates filled sandbag after sandbag to protect one of the many Southern river cities threatened by the swelling Mississippi as it broke more 1930s flood records and crept higher Thursday.
A flooding tributary threatened to cut off Interstate 40, a major east-west route through Arkansas, and the Army Corps of Engineers planned to blast a new breach in a Missouri levee in hopes of controlling the slow-motion disaster flowing downriver.
Thousands of people from Illinois to Louisiana have already been forced from their homes, and anxiety is rising along with the river, though it could be a week or two before some of the most severe flooding hits.
In Hickman, a town of about 2,500, Morrison Williamson was confident a towering floodwall would save his hardware store, despite small leaks that let some flood waters spray through.
Williamson was in a nearly deserted downtown, keeping his store open for customers who needed flood-fighting supplies. He said the decision to break open the Missouri levee upstream has kept the river from topping the floodwall, saving many communities to the south.