Fears of more death, devastation in flood-ravaged Missouri

Fears of more death, devastation in flood-ravaged Missouri

CHICAGO – Agence France-Presse
Fears of more death, devastation in flood-ravaged Missouri

AFP photo

Nervy residents in the flood-ravaged U.S. state of Missouri waited anxiously Dec. 31 to see how high the Mississippi River would rise, as the death toll from the record-breaking deluge hit 14.

Hundreds of homes and businesses have been swallowed up by the frigid, muddy waters. Scores of people have had to be rescued by boat - including one man plucked from the roof of his home as it floated away.

As of the morning of Dec. 31, some 9.3 million people nationwide were in areas with flood warnings. That was down from 12.1 million on Dec. 30, and 17.7 million on Dec. 29. 

At least 28 people have died in the U.S. Midwest since the weekend in the rare winter floods, mostly from driving into flooded areas after storms dropped up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) of rain, officials said.

Flooding in the Midwest usually comes in the spring as snowmelt swells rivers.

Governor Jay Nixon pleaded with people to heed evacuation orders and stay off flooded roadways, after the body of a motorist who was swept off a road was recovered on Dec. 30.

All but one of the state’s 14 fatalities were caused by people driving into the floodwaters and Nixon has stationed troops at major road closures to help direct traffic and stop people from driving around barricades.

“This historic flooding event will continue to cause significant hazards and disruptions - from Missourians being forced from their homes, to businesses temporarily closing, to traffic congestion and impacts on interstate commerce due to the closure of a major trucking corridor,” Nixon said in a statement.

“I thank the many Missourians who are assisting their neighbors by providing rooms in their homes, helping with sandbagging efforts and countless other acts of kindness.” 

The Mississippi River was forecast to crest in the city of St. Louis late Dec. 31 at more than 3.8 meters (12 feet) above flood stage, according to the National Weather Service.

The city of 300,000 is protected by floodgates, but many surrounding suburbs and downriver towns are not.

Smaller tributaries have topped previous records by more than four feet and as those waters reach the Mississippi it will continue to rise.