Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Missouri Residents Urged to Evacuate as Flooding Threatens Levee Breach, Shuts Down Vital Waterway

Pam Wright and Ada Carr
Published: May 3,2017

Wednesday authorities in the small town of West Alton, Missouri, urged residents to evacuate and shut down traffic along a busy section of the Missouri River as a downpour of rain continued to flood parts of the Midwest.
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. At least 20 people have died from the weekend storms and subsequent flooding.
In this current round of storms, a roughly west-to-east axis of heavy rainfall is expected into early Thursday over much of the flood-ravaged region, according to meteorologist Brian Donegan.  
Here's how this weather event is affecting each state.
(MORE: Additional Heavy Rain on the Way?)


Authorities said Wednesday that it's unclear when traffic would be reopened along the closed 14.5-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 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 AP.
Another levee breached in Franklin County, southwest of the city, early Wednesday, but flooding mostly affected farmland.
The flooding has 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.
According to Missouri transportation officials, I-55 closed at 12 a.m. Wednesday after rising water levels on the Meramec River inundated numerous roads. The state Department of Transportation says the roads will remain closed for the remainder of the week, reports WPSD.
Waters flood the intersection of Interstate 44 and Highway 141, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, in this from the top floor of the Drury Inn in Valley Park, Missouri. The flooded Meramec River has shut down all traffic at the intersection.
(J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

A 57-mile stretch of I-44 from central to southern Missouri is also 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.
(MORE: Terrifying Flood Rescue Caught on Camera)
Homeowner Tom Bell, 71, left, and his friend Stan Erlinger take a break from sandbagging and flood preparation on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, in Fenton, Missouri. Bell is hoping that he is better prepared than he was in 2015, when the Meramec River did a great deal of damage to his home.
(J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
So far, nine flooding records have been broken and several more are expected in the coming days, according to senior meteorologist Jon Erdman.
(PHOTOS: Deadly Flooding, Tornadoes in the South and Midwest)
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.

Flood water from the Meramec River covers some athletic fields at Eureka High School on Monday, May 1, 2017, in Eureka, Missouri.
(David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

A levee failure in Pocahontas, Arkansas, 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.


Flooding continues to threaten much of central and southern Illinois.
Two southern Illinois counties, Jackson and Franklin, declared disasters due to flood damage.
According to 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," Dolce said. "After this weather system exits by Friday, several days of dry weather are expected into next week."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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