Missouri is in a state of emergency as river levels rise

By Lindsay Kimble
December 30, 2015 04:15 PM

Volunteers are continuing to search for a missing driver in Southwest Missouri amid historic Mississippi River flooding that is threatening 19 levees and has already forced numerous evacuations, according to the Associated Press.

The driver, whose name was not released, disappeared on Saturday night while trying to cross a flooded bridge over a river in Polk County, Missouri. His vehicle was found abandoned, kept standing only by guardrails, according to the AP.

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The Pleasant Hope emergency management director Rick Davis said that volunteer firefighters searched for the man from Sunday to Tuesday, and that a new team was taking over on Wednesday, the AP reported.

Davis also told the AP that the river has expanded from it’s normal 60 to 70 feet width to a mile wide in some spots. The dramatic flooding has been widespread throughout the Midwest, threatening both Missouri and Illinois.

Federal officials are monitoring the vulnerable levees and warned that hundreds of homes are in danger, the AP reported.

The winter weather has shut down sections of Interstate 44 and the Mississippi is expected to reach its peak late on Wednesday or early on Thursday, according to CNN.

“Record crests are expected to occur at several locations on the Bourbeuse and Meramec Rivers through Thursday because of recent excessive rainfall,” the National Weather Service in St. Louis, Missouri, wrote on Facebook. “Major flooding is also expected to continue along the Mississippi River from Hardin southward including St. Louis and Chester. Remember, if you encounter a flooded roadway, turn around, don’t drown.”

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and told CNN that the state has “never seen water this high.” Nixon said that the Mississippi River will beat its previous highest level recorded, in 1993, when it reaches its peak.

The river also topped the levee in West Alton, Missouri, on Tuesday. Residents were immediately evacuated, according to local news outlet KMOV. In nearby Alton, Illinois, volunteers worked frantically to place sandbags to combat the rising water level.

Nixon has also activated the National Guard to aid first responders and provide security in the evacuated areas, according to CNN.

At least 20 deaths over the past few days are a result of the flooding, according to the AP.

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