Towns in Missouri, central Illinois and at least four other Midwestern states are under a flood warning, as heavy spring rains swell the Mississippi and other rivers to dangerously high crests. In some areas, rivers have already hit record flood levels.
In areas where residents have been forced to evacuate, the American Red Cross has set up shelters at schools and other facilities.
From St. Louis, KMOV TV reports that several bridges over the river were closed Sunday, after more than 100 barges broke loose south of the city Saturday night.
Missouri Department of Transportation officials told KMOV that their main concern was that the barges might severely damage the bridges. That danger seems to have passed, and most of the barges have been secured. But the Coast Guard has closed some 15 miles of the river to traffic.
The areas in most immediate danger include the Quad Cities, just north of St. Louis, with areas farther south vulnerable later. Rivers in at least six states are swollen after torrential rains drenched the region over the last few days.
The AP reports that volunteers, National Guardsmen and prison inmates have all been working to try to keep floodwaters from devastating towns along the waterways
North of St. Louis, the Quad City Times reported that both the Mississippi and the Rock rivers were expected to crest in the area along the Illinois-Iowa border Sunday. And National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Ervin is telling people to expect the water to stick around.
“The Mississippi River is going to stay above major flood stage, 18 feet, through Thursday,” he said. “The Rock at Moline [Illinois] will stay above 14 feet through Thursday afternoon.”
In a flood warning issued Sunday, the National Weather Service said additional rain is likely late Monday and Tuesday, which will slow the water’s descent. On its website, the service has posted a U.S. map with real-time data from sensors in rivers and streams.