Historic floods have hit entire towns all across the midwest, submerging them in water, leaving thousands of residents without shelter.
According to weather reports, floodwaters are continuing to move downstream, leaving communities in several states without homes, electricity and causing several major highways to shut down.
Storms and heavy rainfall have also been blamed for at least nine deaths, with one 18-month-old Arkansas girl missing, presumed dead, after she was swept away by floodwaters.
Weather.com reports: “River flooding will last well into next week, as the flood crest pushes down the Mississippi River and Arkansas’ White River,” said weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman. “A crest near the January 2016 record is possible at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, this weekend.”
— Austin Kellerman (@AustinKellerman) May 4, 2017
A new storm system pushed into the area Wednesday, bringing more heavy rains.
“So far, 1 to 4 inches of rain has fallen from this second round of rain over much of the flood zone,” Erdman said. “Fortunately, this rain-making system is moving faster, and is less moist, so its main effect is either to prolong existing river flooding or trigger local flash flooding in other saturated areas.”
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, according to the AP.
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.
We suspect that the floodwaters from the Black River have spread out about 6 miles wide thru Pocahontas based on satellite data. #arwx
— NWS Little Rock (@NWSLittleRock) May 4, 2017
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.
“Our collective priority is public safety,” Coast Guard commander of the Upper Mississippi River sector Capt. Martin Malloy told the AP.
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, according to the AP.
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, reports WPSD.
— John Gardner (@aerial_patrol) May 3, 2017
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, according to the AP.
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, Missouri transportation officials said.
Some 200 homes have been impacted by the floods and another 1,500 could be in danger, St. Louis County’s emergency management chief told the AP.
So far, nine flooding records have been broken and several more are expected in the coming days, according to weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman.
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, the AP said.
“The old-timers, they know how the river reacts,” Cape Girardeau County emergency management director Richard Knaup told the AP. “They’re old swampers, let me tell you. They’re good country folks. They’d sooner take care of themselves than depend on the government.”
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, confirmed the National Weather Service. A mandatory evacuation order was issued Tuesday in anticipation of the break.
“This is a historical crest. The levees weren’t designed for overtopping,” Randolph County Judge David Jansen told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “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, according to KAIT-TV.
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, reports the AP.
— Justin Logan (@jloganwxguy) May 3, 2017
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, the AP said.
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,” said Dolce. “After this weather system exits by Friday, several days of dry weather are expected into next week.”