Rare flood causes emergency evacuations in US

December 30, 2015 9:30 pm

 Northern view of first street where homes were flooded. Photo / AP

A rare winter flood pushed swollen rivers and streams to virtually
unheard-of heights, sparking widespread evacuations and the transfer of
inmates from an Illinois state prison as Missouri’s governor activated
the National Guard to help divert traffic away from submerged roads.
The
Army Corps of Engineers said water from the rising Mississippi River
and its tributaries threatened to spill over 19 federal levees, putting
hundreds of homes in jeopardy.

Record
flooding was projected in some Mississippi River towns after several
days of torrential rain that caused sewage to flow unfiltered into
waterways.
The Meramec River near St. Louis was expected to get
to more than 3 feet (90 centimeters) above the previous record by late
this week.
At least 18 deaths in Missouri and Illinois were blamed on flooding, mostly involving vehicles that drove onto swamped roadways.
The
river spilled over the top of the levee at West Alton, Missouri, about
20 miles (30 kilometers) north of St. Louis. Mayor William Richter
ordered any of the town’s approximately 520 residents who had not
already evacuated to get out of harm’s way.
In another eastern
Missouri town, Union, water from the normally docile Bourbeuse River
reached the roofs of a McDonald’s and several other businesses. The
river reached an all-time high, nearly 20 feet (six meters) above flood
stage.

Floodwater from the Bourbeuse River surrounds businessesacross Missouri. Photo / AP
Floodwater from the Bourbeuse River surrounds businessesacross Missouri. Photo / AP
Interstate 44 was closed near the central Missouri town of
Rolla, and a 10-mile (16-kilometer) section of Interstate 70 was shut
down in southern Illinois before it was reopened late Tuesday afternoon.
Hundreds of smaller roads and highways were also closed across the two states, and flood warnings were in effect.
Missouri
Gov. Jay Nixon activated the National Guard to assist with security in
evacuated areas and to help keep road closure sites clear.
In
southern Illinois, the Department of Corrections transferred an
unspecified number of inmates from a state prison to other locations
because of flooding risks. The facility houses nearly 3,700 inmates.

People move items to higher ground at the Fenton Feed Mill. Photo / AP
People move items to higher ground at the Fenton Feed Mill. Photo / AP
In St. Louis, more than 500 volunteers turned out in
blustery, cold conditions to fill sandbags where a flooded waterway
threatened hundreds of homes.
The city later trucked 1,500 of the
sandbags south to a nearby county to fortify a wastewater treatment
plant threatened by the swollen Big River
The Mississippi River
is expected to reach nearly 15 feet (4.5 meters) above flood stage on
Thursday at St. Louis, which would be the second-worst flood on record,
behind only the devastating 1993 flood.
The high water was blamed
for the shutdown of a wastewater treatment plant on Monday just south
of St. Louis, causing sewage to go directly into nearby rivers and
streams.
The Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis said the
Fenton wastewater treatment plant, which is designed for 6.75 million
gallons (25.55 million liters) per day of flow, was treating nearly 24
million gallons (91 million liters) per day at the time of the
malfunction.
One of the two wastewater plants in Springfield, Missouri, also failed, allowing partially treated sewage to flow into a river.

A holiday wreath hangs from a light post surrounded by floodwater from the Bourbeuse River. Photo / AP
A holiday wreath hangs from a light post surrounded by floodwater from the Bourbeuse River. Photo / AP
The US Coast Guard closed a 5-mile (8-kilometer) portion of
the Mississippi River near St. Louis due to flooding. Capt. Martin
Malloy cited high water levels and fast currents in the river, which is a
vital transportation hub for barges that carry agricultural products
and other goods.
In central and southern Illinois, flood warnings
were in effect a day after a winter storm brought sleet and icy rain.
Major flooding was occurring along the Kankakee, Illinois, Sangamon and
Vermilion rivers.
The Midwest wasn’t alone. Heavy rain continued
in parts of the South, such as Georgia and eastern Alabama, which has in
parts seen more than 14 inches (35.6 centimeters) of rain.

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