As floodwaters continue to move downstream Thursday, some communities hit hard by the flooding found some relief while others prepare for the onslaught in a historic event that has hit several states.
Storms and heavy rainfall that began over the weekend triggered flooding that has forced the closure of hundreds of roads in Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois and shut down a major waterway.
The floods have been blamed for at least nine deaths in several states across the Midwest and South. An 18-month-old Arkansas girl is missing after being swept away by floodwaters and is presumed dead. Hundreds of other roads have also been closed by flooding. Parts of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are shut down.
“River flooding will last well into next week, as the flood crest pushes down the Mississippi River and Arkansas’ White River. A crest near the January 2016 record is possible at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, this weekend. So far, 1 to 4 inches of rain has fallen from this second round of rain over much of the flood zone.” said weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman. “”
As water levels begin to recede on some smaller rivers, St. Louis County officials are warning residents that floodwater may contain harmful raw sewage, chemicals and others dangers. These pose a particular threat to children that might try to play in the water.
They also urge caution for pets and the danger of wild animals that have been displaced by flooding.
Meanwhile, authorities in the small town of West Alton, Missouri, urged residents to evacuate Wednesday and shut down traffic along a busy section of the Missouri River as a downpour of rain continued to flood parts of the Midwest.
Authorities said Wednesday that it’s unclear when traffic would be reopened along the closed 14-and-a-half-mile stretch of the Mississippi River. The passageway vital for transporting goods and agricultural products was closed by the U.S. Coast Guard due to high water and a swift current.
Fearing the breach of a nearby levee, authorities are urging residents to evacuate the city of West Alton, which is located 20 miles north of St. Louis on the Missouri River and is home to about 500.
Another levee breached in Franklin County, southwest of the city, early Wednesday, but flooding mostly affected farmland.
The flooding on the Meramec river forced Missouri transportation officials to close Interstate 55, along with other major routes Wednesday, effectively cutting off St. Louis from any roads to the southeast. The state Department of Transportation says the roads will remain closed for the remainder of the week.
According to Missouri transportation officials, I-55 was reopened Thursday after rising water levels on the Meramec River forced its closure. A 57-mile stretch of I-44 from central to southern Missouri is closed, along with a 23-mile stretch in suburban St. Louis.
So far, five people have died in Missouri flooding, and several towns have sustained damage. Along the Meramec River, in suburban St. Louis, thousands of sandbags are protecting homes and businesses in Eureka, and authorities fear a breach on a levee in nearby Valley Park, reports the Associated Press.
More than 270 roads remain closed across the state Wednesday.
So far, nine flooding records have been broken and several more are expected in the coming days.
In the town of Allenville, not far from Cape Girardeau, residents were urged to evacuate, but many didn’t, even as the town was surrounded by water and the only way out was by boat.
Near St. Clair, the historic Bruns Bridge was destroyed by floodwaters, officials told the Missourian. The bridge was built in 1888, according to Bridge Hunter, and spanned the Meramec River. A replacement was built in 1993, but the original bridge was never brought down.
Gov. Eric Greitens has declared a state of emergency for all of southern Missouri. The State Emergency Management Agency, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri National Guard, and Missouri’s Task Force 1 Rescue Unit, have deployed resources to manage the crisis.
A levee failure in Pocahontas prompted a flash flood emergency Wednesday as water gushed into the town of about 6,500. A mandatory evacuation order was issued Tuesday in anticipation of the break.
“This is a historical crest. The levees weren’t designed for overtopping. When they go, we’re going to have a wall of water pouring out.”
The evacuations were ordered for the east side of the town located in northeastern Arkansas.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday that additional resources including 108 National Guard members have been dispatched to help parts of the state impacted by the severe flooding. He added that there have been more than 500 evacuations and 25 guard vehicles are on standby for high-water rescues.
As the massive amounts of water move downstream, significant flooding is expected by the end of the week on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis, including the towns of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Cairo, Illinois. Several points on the Missouri River in eastern Missouri are expected to rise 10 feet above flood stage or higher by the end of the week.
Flooding continues to threaten much of central and southern Illinois. Two southern Illinois counties, Jackson and Franklin, declared disasters due to flood damage. A Mississippi River bridge at Chester, Illinois, will close at noon Thursday.
According to weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce, Wednesday and Thursday another round of rain will sweep through areas that have been ravaged by floodwaters since this past weekend.
“With the ground completely saturated, some additional flooding is possible, though rain amounts won’t be anywhere near what was experienced last weekend. After this weather system exits by Friday, several days of dry weather are expected into next week.”
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