ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on severe weather and flooding affecting parts of the U.S. (all times local):
River levels are decreasing in parts of the rain-soaked Midwest, but forecasters warn the flooding threat isn’t over.
Tens of thousands of sandbags and a levee are holding back the swollen Meramec River in parts of suburban St. Louis. But more rain is expected Thursday that could keep the river high for several more days.
Severe flooding on the Mississippi River convinced officials in southern Illinois and Missouri to close a bridge connecting the two states. Officials in southwest Illinois’ Randolph County say the bridge will close Thursday at noon because flood gates are being installed that will prevent vehicles from getting to the bridge.
Major flooding in is also occurring on the Missouri River in eastern Missouri.
Heavy rains have swollen many rivers to record levels in parts of Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Five deaths in Missouri are blamed on the flooding.
Residents are being asked to evacuate a small Missouri town because the rain-swollen Missouri River is threatening to topple a nearby levee.
City officials are urging West Alton’s roughly 500 residents to leave as heavy rain continues to hit the area about 20 miles north of St. Louis.
Another levee breached earlier Wednesday in Franklin County, southwest of the city, though the flooding affected mostly farmland.
Steady rain is ongoing in parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois that were hit hard by torrential rains over the weekend. The National Weather Service says 2 to 4 inches of rain is expected across the region through Thursday.
Flooding has promoted officials to halt traffic along the Mississippi River at St. Louis, meaning a vital passageway for transporting agricultural products and other goods is temporarily closed.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed the Mississippi River to all traffic near St. Louis late Tuesday. The 14.5-mile closure is an inconvenience for barges. But the federal agency says it’s necessary for safety reasons due to high water and a swift current.
The Coast Guard isn’t sure when the river will reopen.
Heavy rain over the weekend caused the Mississippi and smaller rivers to swell. Another 2 to 4 inches of rain is expected in parts of the Midwest through Thursday.
Forecasters are warning of a flash flood emergency for parts of northeast Arkansas after rising floodwaters caused a levee to fail.
The National Weather Service in Memphis, Tennessee, says the levee was breached at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday near Pocahontas, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. Residents in nearby communities have been urged to seek higher ground.
The Black River rose to record levels after weekend storms drenched the area. More rain is in the forecast Wednesday.
A mandatory evacuation had been issued for parts of Pocahontas earlier in the week.
Flooded areas of the Midwest are bracing for another round of heavy rain, the last thing they need with rivers in several places at or near record levels.
Heavy rain last weekend resulted in a sudden rise in rivers in Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas. After a couple of days of calm weather, forecasters expect 2 inches of rain or more in parts of the same hard-hit areas Wednesday through Thursday.
Missouri has gotten the worst of it so far. Five people have died in Missouri flooding, and several towns have sustained damage. Along the Meramec River in suburban St. Louis, thousands of sandbags are protecting homes and businesses in Eureka, and a levee is bulging at the seams in nearby Valley Park.
St. Louis County officials say 200 homes along the Meramec have been damaged and another 1,500 are potentially in harm’s way.
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