Extensive rainfall has caused severe flooding in the St. Louis area
Larger rivers still to crest, weather service says
Aerial photos and other images from the St. Louis region and other parts of the central United States show the devastating impact of the flooding that has caused as many as a dozen deaths and shut down transportation in the area.
Brian Emfinger, a reporter for CNN affiliate KATV, took aerial images and video of flooding near Pocahontas, Arkansas, in the northeastern part of the state, where floodwaters overtopped a levee.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson posted an aerial photo of a Walmart in Pocahontas surrounded by water, as well as the flooding that has impacted roads nearby.
In the past week, flooding has caused seven deaths in Arkansas, including a 10-year-old who was climbing a fence to avoid the water and was swept away, according to the state Department of Emergency Management.
Five people have died in Missouri, officials there said.
St. Louis area flooding
A large area of eastern Missouri and southern Illinois remained under flood warnings on Thursday morning. The flooding impacted more than 100 highways in the St. Louis region, according to Tom Blair, an official with the Missouri Department of Transportation.
The Meramec River, which travels through suburbs of St. Louis, rose to a record 46.11 feet after weeks of heavy rainfall.
The river does not have a reservoir, so flash-flooding and localized flooding is common, Russell Errett with the Army Corps of Engineers told CNN affiliate KMOV.
Paul Levy lives on the banks of the Meramec in Eureka and said his house was flooded. He was warned and managed to save most of his property.
“My home is still under water,” he said. “I had water over the gutters on my second floor.”
Residents piled up sandbags to protect their homes and businesses.
Shayna Kremer took several photos in Pacific, another city along the Meramec River, on Tuesday evening showing streets flooded in all directions.
Blair encouraged Missouri residents to follow road closures and warning signs and to not drive around barricades.
“We’re getting close to the end,” he said. “Please keep it up a little bit longer.”
Missouri is not in the clear yet, as flooding concerns are focused on the larger rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi, according to the National Weather Service. Mark Fuchs, a service hydrologist for the NWS in St. Louis, said those rivers will crest by early Saturday.
“The smaller rivers always recede sooner. A small creek would rise fairly quickly, and will come down fairly quickly,” he said. “Eventually, that water goes out to the larger river, which is the last thing to rise and the last thing to crest.”
Illinois is next
Meanwhile, residents of central and southern Illinois prepped for their own coming floods as rain continued to fall.
The Mississippi River that separates Missouri and Illinois is projected to reach 48.5 feet on Saturday near Cape Girardeau, just below its record high of 48.9 feet.
Forecasters said the time to be worried about moderate to heavy rainfall in those states is between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., mainly in southern Illinois.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency enlisted inmate crews from the Department of Corrections to sandbag communities expecting rising floodwaters.
In Villa Grove, toward the eastern part of Illinois, officials said they had prepared boats for possible rescues and police were ready to block off streets in case of flooding, according to CNN affiliate WCIA.
Traci Belshe, who lives in Villa Grove, told WCIA that previous flooding has caused more serious issues.
“We’ve had people trapped in their homes, having to be boat rescued out while that gas leak is occurring,” Belshe said. “I myself have been trapped in this home three different times.”
CNN’s Samira Said, Janet DiGiacomo, Chuck Johnston and David Williams contributed to this report.