The river was at about 31 feet late Thursday. Flood stage is 32 feet. According to the National Weather Service, the river should rise above the flood stage today and crest at 43 feet by June 8, the highest it's been this year.
Recent heavy rain upstream will cause water levels to rise several feet along the river in the next few weeks.
Forecaster David Blanchard of the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., said heavy rain in Iowa and northern Missouri will cause a rapid rise of the river. In addition, several more inches of rain are forecast north in the next few days.
"You get into a summer-like pattern, with big lines of thunderstorms up there," he said. "A crest of 43 feet at Cape, that's pretty significant, but I don't think it's going to last. It should settle down as we get toward the beginning of summer."
Stan Polivick, stormwater coordinator for Cape Girardeau Public Works, said the city has a tiered response to the rising waters. The department will open the two drainage pump stations on the flood walls today to deal with the rain and make sure water doesn't back up into drainage systems.
Polivick said the Themis Street floodgate will close at 35 feet, and he anticipates that will happen Sunday. The Broadway gate closes at 37.5 feet, and Polivick said that should happen Monday. The department then will coordinate with the railroad to close the North Main Street gate at 39.5 feet.
Thanks to buyouts, few residential properties in the Cape Girardeau area are affected when the river reaches major flood stage. But tens of thousands of acres are flooded, including prime farm land. Much of the land was recently planted, and flooding could hurt crops.