Soldiers and volunteers packed sand bags in a panic stricken attempt to stave off floodwaters in the US state of Missouri, where 13 people have been killed and several towns have been inundated. The Mississippi River is already more than 14 feet (4.2 meters) above flood stage in some areas and it is expected to rise according to forecast to another eight feet before cresting on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
“We’ve never seen water this high,” Missouri Governor Jay Nixon told CNN on Wednesday. “We’re in a massive flood fight.” Major rivers in flood-prone areas of Missouri and Illinois are creeping toward milestone or near-record crests.
Forecasters state the Mississippi River in St. Louis is expected to crest on Thursday evening at 13 feet above flood stage which is six feet below the 1993 record. In Chester, Illinois, about 60 miles south of St. Louis, the river is expected to reach a near-record 20 feet above flood stage on New Year’s Day.
Record crests of the Meramec River near the flood-prone St. Louis suburbs of Arnold and Valley Park were expected Thursday or early Friday. Almost 20 deaths over several days in Missouri and Illinois were blamed on flooding, mostly involving vehicles that drove onto swamped roadways.
Most of these deaths have happened in Missouri, where a fourteenth flood victim was found Wednesday. The latest victim was found in Crawford County. Missouri Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike O’Connell says the victim died when a vehicle was swept off a roadway. The name of the victim wasn’t immediately released. All but one of the Missouri victims have died when their vehicles drove into flooded roadways.
That number of deaths may rise, since there are several missing people in the region, including a country singer. Craig Strickland went missing after going duck hunting with his friend, Chase Morland, on Oklahoma’s Kaw Lake. Search teams found the pair’s capsized boat Sunday along with Strickland’s dog, which was alive. Morland’s body was recovered Monday.
“We emptied out our basement of anything important, which is strictly storage anyway. We cleaned out the house of clothes. Things that can’t be replaced. Important pieces of furniture,” said Kathy Wunderlich from West Alton.
At its peak, the Mississippi should be at its highest level ever, Nixon said, beating the highest level of the great flood of 1993.”That’s why we’ve got a state of emergency,” said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. However it is expected to drain off rapidly, so he is hopeful the cleanup phase will begin soon.
A visibly exhausted James Harris told KMOV that if his house floods, he’s not moving back. “It wears you out,” he said. “This is the last time I’m going to do this.”
Water levels in several cities along the Mississippi River in Missouri and Illinois will reach or surpass the flood of 1993, which will be the highest ever recorded in that area, ABC meteorologist Max Golembo said.