Severe floods hit Missouri as U.S. storms sweep north

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December 29, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo./CHICAGO – Missouri residents struggled through a fourth straight day of storms on Tuesday, fighting floodwaters that inundated homes, forced evacuations and closed highways and even part of the Mississippi River.

Snow blankets Marsha Sharp Freeway on U.S. Highway 82 on Dec. 27 in Lubbock, Texas.

December 29, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo./CHICAGO – Missouri residents struggled through a fourth straight day of storms on Tuesday, fighting floodwaters that inundated homes, forced evacuations and closed highways and even part of the Mississippi River.

Snow blankets Marsha Sharp Freeway on U.S. Highway 82 on Dec. 27 in Lubbock, Texas.

A week of chaotic weather continued throughout the United States as a storm system that created deadly tornadoes in the Midwest and Southwest pushed north. More than 40 people have died of weather-related causes during the Christmas holidays in the past week.

In Missouri, which has been pounded by days of downpours, residents of the small city of West Alton, about 20 miles (32 km) north of St. Louis and at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, were told to evacuate on Tuesday due to rising waters, county officials said.

Video taken from helicopters by local media showed homes in West Alton with water almost to roof level. Several shops, a McDonald's restaurant and a filling station were also partially covered.

ST. LOUIS, MO – DECEMBER 29: Volunteers create and load sandbags on the banks of the River Des Peres on December 29, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are bracing for record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called out the state's national guard to protect communities and support emergency response personnel. Their duties also were to include providing security in evacuated areas and directing traffic from road closures.

"These citizen soldiers will provide much-needed support to state and local first responders, many of whom have spent the last several days working around the clock responding to record rainfall and flooding," Nixon said in a statement.

The floods also caused the closure of hundreds of roads across Missouri, including in St. Louis and Interstate 44 near Rolla, officials said.

In his statement, Nixon reiterated a call for motorists never to drive around barricades or into standing water.

The U.S. Coast Guard had to close a 5-mile (8 km) section of the Mississippi River near St. Louis to all vessel traffic because the rising river levels created hazardous conditions.

MISSISSIPPI TO CREST FRIDAY

The National Weather Service (NWS) predicted the Mississippi River at the Chester, Illinois, gauge, will crest at 49.7 feet (15.1 meters) on Friday – matching the record from 1993, Nixon's office said.

Elsewhere in the nation's midsection, parts of eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas and Illinois also were under flood warnings and flood watches on Tuesday. Up to a foot (30 cm) of snow was forecast for Iowa and the Great Lakes region, NWS forecasters said.

The severe weather has stranded tens of thousands of air travelers during one of busiest travel periods of the year. As of 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) on Tuesday, more than 1,200 flights had been canceled in the United States and about 3,800 were delayed. About 2,900 flights were canceled on Monday, according to FlightAware.com.

Delays also were expected on roads, the weather forecasting site AccuWeather said.

In an apparent weather-related incident, singer Craig Strickland, 29, of the country-rock band Backroad Anthem was missing. His friend's body was found in an Oklahoma lake after their boat capsized while duck hunting in bad weather, officials said.

Adding to the misery, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that two mild earthquakes – 4.1 and 3.4 magnitude – rattled central Oklahoma early on Tuesday, causing power outages in an area already hit by winter storms.

The Northeast, which had unusually warm temperatures over Christmas, was getting its first major snow and ice of the season, with significant snowfall in upstate New York and New England. The busy corridor from New York City to Washington, D.C., could expect sleet and rain through midday Tuesday, the NWS said.

In Chicago, more than 245 flights were canceled on Tuesday at O'Hare International Airport, the country's second busiest airport and a hub for both United and American Airlines. The storm also led to 150 flight cancellations at Toronto Pearson, Canada's busiest airport, Monday and Tuesday.

The low-pressure storm system created blizzard conditions in New Mexico and western Texas.

A resident of the Landmark at the Lake Village West apartment complex collects some of his belonging from his damaged home in Garland, Texas, Dec. 28.


Courtesy: Reuters

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