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Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2008

Much of central US is under water

March 20, 2008

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Residents watch water seep through recently placed gravel against a levee on the Black River in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Much of Missouri is threatened with flooding after a slow-moving storm system dumped up to a foot of rain in the nation's midsection.

Residents watch water seep through recently placed gravel against a levee on the Black River in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Much of Missouri is threatened with flooding after a slow-moving storm system dumped up to a foot of rain in the nation's midsection.

— Residents of low-lying towns stacked sandbags or grabbed belongings and evacuated Wednesday after a foot of rain pushed rivers and creeks out of their banks in the nation's midsection. At least 13 deaths had been linked to the weather, and three people were missing.

Record or near-record flood crests were forecast at several towns in Missouri. Flooding was reported in large areas of Arkansas and parts of southern Illinois, southern Indiana and southwestern Ohio, and schools were closed in parts of western Kentucky because of flooded roads.

"We've got water rising everywhere," said Jeff Korb, president of the Vanderbugh County, Ind., commissioners.

The National Weather Service posted flood and flash flood warnings from Texas to Pennsylvania.

After two days, rain had finally stopped falling by Wednesday afternoon in much of Missouri and Arkansas as the weather system crawled toward the Northeast, drenching the Ohio Valley and spreading snow over parts of northern New England. A parallel band of locally heavy rain stretched from Alabama and Georgia to the mid-Atlantic states.

Atlanta police closed some downtown streets in case the stormy weather knocked down more broken glass and debris from buildings damaged by Friday's tornado.

In Ohio and other areas, the rain fell on ground already saturated from heavy snowfall less than two weeks ago.

A foot of rain had fallen in sections of southern Illinois and at Mountain Home, Ark., and Cape Girardeau, Mo., while 6.2 inches fell at Evansville, Ind., the weather service said.

Dead and missing

Five deaths were linked to the flooding in Missouri, five people were killed in a highway wreck in heavy rain in Kentucky and a 65-year-old Ohio woman appeared to have drowned while checking on a sump pump in her home. In southern Illinois, two bodies were found hours after floodwaters swept a pickup truck off a rural road.

Searches were under way in Texas for a teenager washed down a drainage pipe, and two people were missing in Arkansas after their vehicles were swept away by rushing water.

Searchers in Missouri found the body of Mark G. Speir Jr., 19, on Wednesday about 2 miles downstream from where he was reported swept into a creek the previous evening.

"He was going down the creek screaming and hollering," Lawrence County emergency management chief Mike Rowe said.

Saving stuff

Outside St. Louis, the Meramec River was threatening towns including Eureka and Valley Park, where Chandra Webster's kids ran bags of toys and clothes to the car while she moved boxes of belongings to the second floor and her husband moved furniture out of harm's way.

"It's a lot of work, but it's worth it to save your stuff," Webster, 34, said Wednesday. "In '82 we lost everything when I was a little girl. I don't want to put my kids through that."

Widespread flooding in Arkansas had washed out some highways and led to evacuations in some areas, said Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. The Highway and Transportation Department reported state roads blocked in 16 counties.

Ohio rescue workers were busy helping people out of cars swamped by the flooding. "The biggest problem has been people driving into floodwater," said Frank Young, emergency management director in Warren County. "There are a lot of stupid people. When that sign says 'Road closed, high water,' that's what it means."

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