Major flooding is now occurring along the Missouri River in eastern Missouri and the Mississippi River in Missouri and IL.
"Our collective priority is public safety", said Capt. Martin Malloy, commander of the Coast Guard's Upper Mississippi River sector. Heavy rains in the St. Louis area Wednesday morning will strain the river, which will likely surpass height records it set in December 2015, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.
Thousands of miles of levees stretch across the US, built to keep swollen waterways from inundating towns, farmland and critical infrastructure.
Dropping water levels along the Meramec River on Thursday prompted the mayor of Valley Park to lift evacuation orders for levee-protected areas effective at 8 a.m. Friday.
The town of Pocahontas, Arkansas, has been hit particularly hard. When heavy rains come, those rivers, which should be able to absorb heavy rains over a day or two, react more like small streams and are more prone to flooding, Criss said. Flood waters could reach as high as 48 feet (15 meters) at Cape Girardeau by Saturday, which would be a new record.
A levee breach has been confirmed along the Black River in Pocahontas, a small city located in Randolph County, Arkansas, which is close to the border of Missouri, according to the NWS.
"This is a historical crest".
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At St. Louis, where some highways have been closed due to high water, the MS is not expected to drop below flood stage until the middle of next week.
Hutchinson said Wednesday that 108 guard members have been deployed to the flood-stricken areas and 25 guard vehicles are prepared for high-water rescues if needed. The waters overtopped and breached the levee system in nine places, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
"With the rainfall we're having here, it's going to prolong the recession of the waters - the Meramec, the MS and the Missouri" said Kelly.
Still, residents of one of those downriver towns - West Alton, where about 500 people live - were urged to evacuate on Wednesday because the levee there was threatened by the swollen river. The detour in St. Louis is taking up to two hours to go 30 miles. About 200 homes have been damaged in the area along the Meramec, and another 1,500 are endangered if levees and sandbags don't hold. Engineer Karen Yeomans says it is hampering efforts to re-open some roads.
Several highways serving St. Louis, including Interstate 44, were blocked by high water.
Shayna Kremer took several photos in Pacific, another city along the Meramec River, on Tuesday evening showing streets flooded in all directions.
Traci Belshe, who lives in the community southeast of Champaign, told WCIA that previous flooding has caused more serious issues.