Rain-swollen rivers rose across Missouri and Illinois on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people, closing parts of a major interstate highway and putting scores of buildings underwater after days of unusual winter flooding that has killed 23 people.
Several major rivers, including the vital Mississippi, were poised to crest at record levels, creating floods as the waters rolled toward the Gulf of Mexico, the National Weather Service said, but parts of the area already are inundated.
News video showed homes and businesses with water almost up to their roofs in Missouri – and one cabin floating away – while crews in other areas put up sand bag barriers in hopes of keeping out water. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called the flooding in his state “very historic and dangerous” and brought out the National Guard for help.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency to prepare for imminent flooding as the waters move south.
At least 23 people have died in Missouri, Illinois and Oklahoma in flooding after days of downpours that brought as much as 12 inches (30 cm) of rain to some areas. Almost all of the deaths have been caused by people driving into flooded areas.
Along the Meramec River in Eureka, Missouri, Mayor Kevin Coffey, said a man had to be rescued from atop the cab of his pick-up truck after spending the night in a parking lot to watch over his gun shop business and then trying to drive away.
“This is 4 feet (1.2 meters) above…