ST. LOUIS — Flooded areas of the Midwest are bracing for another round of heavy rain Wednesday, the last thing they need with rivers in several places at or near record levels.
Heavy rain last weekend resulted in a sudden rise in rivers in Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas. After a couple of days of calm weather, forecasters expect 2 inches of rain or more in parts of the same hard-hit areas through Thursday.
Missouri has seen the worst of it so far. Five people have died in flooding in Missouri, and several towns have sustained damage. Along the Meramec River in suburban St. Louis, thousands of sandbags are protecting about 50 homes and several businesses in Eureka, and a levee is bulging at the seams in nearby Valley Park, where many residents have evacuated.
St. Louis County officials say 200 homes along the Meramec have been damaged in the flooding and another 1,500 are potentially in harm's way.
In Arkansas, parts of Pocahontas were evacuated as the flooded Black River rose to record levels and breached a levee near the town, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. Forecasters issued a flash flood emergency and warned residents to move to higher ground.
"This is a historical crest. The levees weren't designed for overtopping," Randolph County, Arkansas Judge David Jansen told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before the levee failed. "When they go, we're going to have a wall of water pouring out."
In Illinois, much of the central and southern parts of the state are under flood warnings. Three Southern Illinois counties, Jackson, Williamson and Franklin, declared disasters due to flood damage.
Hundreds of roads are closed across the three states, including a 57-mile stretch of Interstate 44 from central to southern Missouri, and a 23-mile stretch in suburban St. Louis. A portion of Interstate 55 in St. Louis County was scheduled to close before daybreak Wednesday due to flooding on the Meramec.
The nation's biggest rivers are flooding, too. Significant flooding is forecast by the end of the week on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis at towns such as 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.