Major rivers in flood-prone areas of Missouri and Illinois are creeping toward milestone or near-record crests.
Check the latest IDOT Road closures
7:40 a.m. Thursday
The St. Louis area is increasingly difficult to drive through, as floodwaters have poured over two interstate highways and hundreds of other spots on smaller roads.
The Missouri Department of Transportation closed a 24-mile stretch of Interstate 44 southwest of St. Louis on Wednesday, and shut down three miles of Interstate 55 south of St. Louis about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
With I-55 closed, the only north-south alternative is Highway 231, known locally as Telegraph Road. But traffic there is backing up with cars and trucks that would normally be on I-55.
MoDOT spokeswoman Marie Elliott says motorists who can stay home should do so.
The Missouri Department of Transportation has closed Interstate 55 in both directions at the Meramec River due to historic flooding.
Officials said in a tweet early Thursday morning that Rte. 231 remains open.
They had been preparing for the possible closure of the major interstate highway south of St. Louis Wednesday night due to the flooding.
An aggressive sandbagging operation had been underway to keep the lanes open. Other connections between St. Louis and Jefferson counties already are closed, including I-44 over the river.
Divers will continue searching for two missing teenagers from Taylorville. The pair were last seen in a red Ford pickup and a signal from one of their cell phones was picked up near floodwater along the Sangamon and Christian county line. The search is concentrated near Sangchris Lake and Pawnee.
Two people from Edinurg drowned earlier this week trying to cross a flooded area. 7 people have died in Illinois due to the recent storms.
Governor Bruce Rauner Wednesday added Alexander, Christian, Clinton, Douglas and Morgan counties to the state disaster declaration for widespread flooding. This brings the statewide total of declared counties to 12.
On Tuesday, Gov. Rauner declared Calhoun, Jackson, Jersey, Madison, Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair counties.
“While the rains have stopped, we’re continuing to see more communities battling flood waters in order to protect their residents and critical facilities,” said Governor Rauner. “The state of Illinois will continue to support these local efforts with personnel and resources throughout this flood event.”
Governor Rauner will return to Springfield Thursday evening and will spend the following several days in Central and Southern Illinois viewing flood damage, thanking volunteers and ensuring communities have everything they need.
A state disaster declaration makes a wide variety of state resources available that can help communities respond and recover from flooding. Such resources include sandbag, sand, pumps, trucks and other heavy equipment and other assistance to ensure public safety.
The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield was activated Monday morning to coordinate the state’s flood response. The SEOC will remain open until the threat has passed.
Severe flooding is forcing the closure of three historic sites in Illinois.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency said Wednesday that Fort de Chartres,
Fort Kaskaskia and Pierre Menard Home have been temporarily shut down because
rising water made the sites and nearby roads unsafe. All three sites are in
Randolph County, about 40 miles south of St. Louis.
Volunteers are clearing the Forte de Chartres, the re-creation of a fort built
by the French military in the 1750s. It was declared a national historic
landmark in 1960.
Forecasters said the Mississippi River in St. Louis is expected to crest
Thursday evening at 13 feet above flood stage _ six feet below the 1993 record.
In Chester, Illinois, about 60 miles south of St. Louis, the river is expected
to reach a near-record 20 feet above flood stage on New Year's Day.
Record crests of the Meramec River near the flood-prone St. Louis suburbs of
Arnold and Valley Park were expected Thursday or early Friday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it is not planning to open a southeastern
Missouri floodway in response to the swollen Mississippi River _ at least not
The corps put the floodway near Charleston, Missouri, to use in 2011, blasting
holes in the Birds Point levee to displace enough water to save nearby Cairo,
Illinois, from a potentially devastating flood.
Cairo is at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. In 2011, the
Ohio there crested a record 22 feet above flood stage before the floodway was
thrust into use, swamping 130,000 acres. Several Missouri homes were destroyed.
But the corps says the crest at Cairo would need to reach 20 feet above flood
stage. And as of midday Wednesday, the river was expected to peak a foot below
that late Sunday or early Monday.
Business owners in the historic riverfront city of Alton, Illinois, are
scrambling to keep out rising water from the Mississippi River.
Most of the damage by Wednesday afternoon was confined to high water in some
downtown basements. City firefighters worked to unclog flooded storm drains
behind a seven-foot-high, 1,000-foot-long temporary retaining wall reinforced by
gravel and sandbags.
The Argosy Alton casino remains closed, as does the southbound lane of the main
highway connecting the city to Missouri.
Alton Mayor Brant Walker said he's ``very optimistic that what we've built here
will hold'' as the Mississippi River is expected to crest at 38 feet on
Thursday, 17 feet above flood stage.
Leaders in the central Illinois village of Kincaid say flood waters have
significantly damaged 30 to 40 homes.
Kincaid Village Foreman Pat Durbin tells the Taylorville Daily Breeze-Courier
(http://bit.ly/1nsYroS ) that most of the water in the area is more than 8 feet
The National Weather Service says the three-day rain total in Kincaid was more
than 6 inches as of Wednesday morning.
Durbin says most residents in the affected area left and he isn't aware of any
injuries. He says authorities went door-to-door and ``got everybody out that we
Christian County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Crews says an
American Red Cross temporary shelter is available at a high school.
Kincaid is about 25 miles southeast of Springfield and near the South Fork
Floodwaters have limited access in and out of the St. Louis suburb of Valley
The community of about 7,000 residents sits along the fast-rising Meramec
River, which is expected to crest Thursday more than 3 feet above its previous
record of 40 feet.
Mayor Michael Pennise ordered residents in one part of town to evacuate by 10
He said that the U.S. Army Corps of engineers say they're confident that the
levee built in 2007 will hold, but that the evacuations were done as a
John Anderson, a Valley Park resident, cleared out his apartment building of
precious item, including photos.
City attorney Tim Englemeyer asked the governor's office to send National Guard
troops to help with security.
Crews in northern Oklahoma have begun their third day of searching for a
country music singer from Arkansas who disappeared Sunday while duck hunting
with a friend in severe weather.
Craig Strickland went missing after going duck hunting with his friend, Chase
Morland, on Oklahoma's Kaw Lake. Search teams found the pair's capsized boat
Sunday along with Strickland's dog, which was alive. Morland's body was
Strickland is the lead singer of the Arkansas-based country-rock band Backroad
Anthem. The band had been scheduled to perform Thursday in Little Rock,
Arkansas, but that show has been canceled.
Crews searched Monday and Tuesday for Strickland but suspended the search at
nightfall. The search picked back up Wednesday morning on Kaw Lake, which is 38
miles long and is near Oklahoma's border with Kansas.
Some traffic on Interstate 44 in central Missouri is moving again, but a
stretch near St. Louis is still closed because of flooding.
The Missouri State Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that
eastbound lanes reopened in Phelps County near Rolla, but westbound traffic
Interstate 44 in southwest St. Louis County was shut down late Tuesday in both
directions and is expected to remain closed for several days. Water from the
Meramec River is flooding the highway at Valley Park.
Transportation officials are urging motorists to use Interstate 70 for
Hundreds of other road closures are occurring throughout the Midwest due to
record and near-record flooding spurred by heavy rains in recent days.
A rain-swollen lake near the tourist community of Branson, Missouri, has forced
residents of 55 duplexes and about 100 single-family homes to be evacuated.
Branson Fire Chief Ted Martin says Lake Taneycomo is at fault and that there
have been no injuries from the flooding, which has also closed three parks and a
city-owned lakeside campground.
Branson's popular Landing shopping district along the lake was open Wednesday,
though floodwaters swamped lower areas of parking and storage.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is easing water levels at a record flow around
the Table Rock Lake dam, which feeds into man-made Lake Taneycomo and is
contributing to the flooding.
Volunteers are resuming a search for a missing motorist in southwest Missouri.
Pleasant Hope emergency management director Rick Davis says the man disappeared
Saturday night as he prepared to cross a bridge over the Pomme de Terre River in
Polk County. Guardrails kept the man's vehicle from washing away.
Davis says volunteer firefighters searched from Sunday through Tuesday, and
others are taking over the search Wednesday.
Davis says the river is normally 60 to 70 feet wide, but is now a mile wide in
some spots. He says some debris piles are two stories high.
He says that, ``Nobody that is living has ever seen anything like this.''
The mayor of the St. Louis suburb of Valley Park is ordering mandatory
evacuations for a portion of the town of about 6,900 residents as the
fast-rising Meramec River threatens a levee.
Mayor Michael Pennise ordered the evacuations early Wednesday. Many people had
already left that area but those who didn't were told to evacuate by 10 a.m.
The National Weather Service is projecting that the Meramec River will reach
record heights at Valley Park, around 30 feet above flood stage, late Wednesday.
Pennise says the Corps of Engineers is confident the levee will hold up, and no
signs of a breach have been found.
The Meramec is expected to shatter flood records at Valley Park and several
Interstate 44 is closed in multiple locations in Missouri because of flooding.
The Missouri Department of Transportation says the closures include westbound
and eastbound stretches of the interstate in central Missouri's Phelps County
and in the St. Louis area.
Transportation officials say drivers using detour routes should expect delays
and longer travel times.
The interstate has been closed off and on since Monday in Phelps County.
Two central Illinois residents have drowned in floodwaters, raising the state's
death toll since the weekend to seven.
Also, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has issued a disaster proclamation for seven
Christian County officials say a man and a woman were found Tuesday morning in
floodwaters about 6 miles east of Edinburg. Officials say it appears they were
trying to cross a flooded area. Police used cellphone location services to find
them, but their minivan is still missing.
The Christian County Coroner's Office told the (Springfield) State
Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/1YO7Mha ) that both died of drowning.
Rauner issued the disaster proclamation Tuesday afternoon for Calhoun, Jackson,
Jersey, Madison, Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair counties. The National Weather
Service says those counties saw about 7 inches of rain Dec. 23-28.