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Effects of Midwest flooding will be felt for months

Seth Perlman / AP

Steve Peters uses a make shift bridge to access dry land in Peoria Heights, Ill. The Illinois River crested at 29.35 feet, eclipsing a 70-year record in Peoria.

A 54-year-old Missouri woman died Wednesday after apparently being struck by lightning, as states along the Mississippi River continue to fight back flooding and farmers struggle in what has been an unrelentingly wet spring in the region.

Authorities say Connie Lou Wake was discovered by her son in the front yard of her home in the south-central part of the state. It was the first lightning fatality this year in the state, which had 28 last year.

Meanwhile, residents of towns along the Mississippi River in eastern Missouri have been spent the past several days filling and stacking sandbags to keep the river from flooding their homes and businesses. 

The mighty river crested early Thursday in St. Louis, reaching 5.5 feet above flood stage before retreating. But the river is still a day or two away from reaching its peak in areas further south in the state.

To the north, a damaged lock may keep a stretch of the Illinois River closed to commercial shipping traffic for weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. Flooding has halted the transport of corn and soybean barges at certain terminals on the river, Reuters reports. The disruptions could cause significant disruptions in the flow of grain and corn in the second-highest soybean producing state.

Reuters reports almost 60 percent of U.S. grain exports are transported on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Grain prices at export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico climbed this week to the highest level in at least a month due to the disruptions.

Production has also suffered, as farmers who would normally be planting corn right now are halted because of the wet, muddy ground. Darren Walter, who farms in Grand Ridge, Ill., told the Associated Press he needs warmer weather to dry the ground in a part of the country where temperatures have continued to drop to 30 degrees at night.

And while the effects of the heavy downpours will continue to be felt for months, some areas are at least beginning to feel some relief. In North Dakota, officials announced the Red River would crest next week at lower than anticipated levels.

The river is still expected to peak at possibly its second-highest level on record, and flood preparations are being made throughout the north-central United States.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.