Deadly river floods set to continue through weekend

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NBC News

Rivers including the Mississippi and Illinois are expected to remain in “major flood stage” through this weekend, the National Weather Service warned on Tuesday.

A number of flood warnings were in place as ongoing rain and runoff from last week’s intense downpours continued to keep the water levels high in rivers across Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan in particular, the NWS added.

“The larger rivers, such as the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, will take longer to recede and will remain in major flood stage through this weekend,” the weather service said.

“Do not drive through flowing water. Nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle related. As little as 6 inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Two feet of water will carry most vehicles away,” it added in a flood warning for several rivers in Missouri.

There was also a risk of severe storms from the Ohio Valley to the lower Mississippi Valley, weather.com said on Tuesday, with “localized damaging winds and large hail.”

The floods have been blamed for at least five deaths since Thursday and have also forced evacuations, swamped homes and shut down bridges.

Barge traffic on the Mississippi was brought to a near standstill. On Sunday at least one sank and others ran aground or were half-submerged because of the floods.

States of emergency have been declared in Missouri and Illinois.

The Associated Press described the fight against the floodwaters in different communities across the affected area:

Days after bused-in prison inmates worked shoulder to shoulder with the National Guard and local volunteers to build a makeshift floodwall of sand and gravel in Clarksville, Mo., about 70 miles north of St. Louis, the barrier showed signs of strain Monday.

Crews scrambled to patch trouble spots and build a second sandbag wall to catch any water weaseling through.

In Grafton, Ill., some 40 miles northeast of St. Louis, Mayor Tom Thompson said small community was holding its own against the Mississippi that by early Monday afternoon was 10 feet above flood stage.

Waters lapped against some downtown buildings, forcing shops such as Hawg Pit BBQ to clear out and detours to be put up around town — one key intersection was under 8 inches of water.

"If it gets another foot (higher), it's going to become another issue," Thompson said. Many businesses "are kinda watching and holding their breath. ... Some things are going to really be close to the wire."

Elsewhere, smaller rivers caused big problems. In Grand Rapids, Mich., the Grand River hit a record 21.85 feet, driving hundreds of people from their homes and flooding parts of downtown.

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