OMAHA, Neb. — Communities in several states along the Mississippi River are watching the skies this week as rainfall will likely determine whether the river reaches record crests and how much it will raise floodwaters.
The National Weather Service had issued flood warnings for areas directly on either side of the river in 10 states, from Minnesota and Wisconsin south to Louisiana and Mississippi.
"It's pretty much the entire river, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico," Mike McClure, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Davenport, Iowa, said Tuesday.
In Iowa, some cities on the river's banks — including Davenport and Muscatine — have shut down low-lying streets and erected flood walls and sandbag barriers. Flooding also led officials to close some roads along the river, including Iowa Highway 22 from Davenport downstream to Muscatine and US Highway 67 north of LeClaire, Iowa.
Flood watches have been issued for larger tracts around in the river in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, as well as sections of Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, as heavy rain that began in some places Monday was set to continue into Tuesday and Wednesday.
The rain comes as the Mississippi River is set to reach record or near-record crests in Iowa, Illinois and northern Missouri.
In suburban St. Louis, the river is expected to reach 9 to 10 feet (2.74 to 3.05 meters) above flood stage Saturday at several locations in northeast Missouri, including Hannibal, Louisiana, Clarksville and Winfield, and at Quincy, Illinois. Water at that level would result in a top-10 flood in those communities.
With up to 4 inches of rain possible in the region through Friday, the weather service cites a high risk of flash flooding and warns that river forecasts could rise even higher.
If the river reaches the projected 24.2 feet in Louisiana, a town of 3,300 residents some 90 miles north of St. Louis, roads and highways will be covered, railroad tracks will be swamped, and the Champ Clark Bridge crossing the river will have to close, Pike County, Missouri, Emergency Management Director Al Murry said.
Water that high also could threaten levees that protect thousands of acres of farmland, he said.
"The potential for cropland damage if you have a levee burst — that's a really big deal," Murry said.
The gauge at Davenport showed the level Tuesday afternoon at less than a foot under the record crest of 22.6 feet set in July 1993. It's expected to crest Wednesday evening a few inches short of the record.
The Muscatine gauge showed the river just under 3 feet below the July 1993 record of 25.6 feet. It's expected to crest a little more than a foot under the record at Muscatine, where officials have placed new berms and are diverting downtown traffic.
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