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The Latest: Receding flood allows I-44 to reopen

Pacific building and fire inspectors look through Pacific Package Liquor to deem it safe for occupancy on E. Osage Street in Pacific, Mo., Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Heavy rains have swollen many rivers to record levels in parts of Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Five deaths have been blamed on flooding in Missouri, while hundreds of people have been displaced and thousands more are potentially in harm's way. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on flooding in the Midwest (all times local):

5:40 p.m.

Residents of areas hit hard by flooding in eastern Missouri are getting some good news: River levels are subsiding, some evacuated residents will be allowed to go home and a closed interstate is reopening.

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 lower part of the town was evacuated Monday amid worries a nearby levee wouldn’t hold.

Decreasing water levels also prompted officials to reopen westbound lanes of busy Interstate 44 in St. Louis County. Transportation officials hope to open eastbound lanes before Friday morning rush hour.

But authorities warn the threat isn’t over. Hazards left behind by the high water can include raw sewage, damaged electrical equipment and displaced wildlife lurking near homes.

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1:30 p.m.

At least 14 levees along the Missouri River in Missouri are losing the battle against floodwaters.

The Missouri Levee & Drainage District Association said Thursday that seven levees have been overtopped by water and seven more have been breached, with water pouring through them. The levees are in rural areas and the impact is mostly on farmland.

Portions of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers remain well above flood stage. Up to a foot of rain fell in parts of Missouri last weekend, and much of the central U.S. has seen several additional inches of rain over the past two days.

The worst flood damage has been along smaller rivers like the Black River in southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas, and the Meramec River in suburban St. Louis.

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12:05 a.m.

About 50 homes in Randolph County in Arkansas have been destroyed or sustained major damage due to flooding.

Randolph County Judge David Jansen says the Black River levee near Pocahontas had nine breaches Wednesday morning, three of them major. Parts of the town were evacuated earlier in the week after the river rose to record levels because of weekend storms that drenched the area.

Jansen says the biggest concern is over floodwater headed toward communities in Lawrence County.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that he believes the northeast Arkansas counties affected by the recent severe weather will receive a federal disaster declaration.

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9:45 a.m.

Rivers in Louisiana are pouring over their banks after parts of the state were inundated with up to 8 inches of rain.

The rain began falling Wednesday and pushed the Vermillion River at Lafayette several feet above flood stage. The Calcasieu River in the Lake Charles area also is well above flood stage.

The rain created flash flooding in several places. A school bus trying to drive on a flooded road got stuck and nearly tipped over near the town of Iowa, Louisiana. Students and the driver were rescued and no one was hurt.

In Sulphur, firefighters used buses to evacuate 76 residents after flooding threatened a nursing home.

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9:30 a.m.

More than 100 members of the Arkansas National Guard are assisting with the flood-fighting effort in northeast Arkansas.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says 25 guard vehicles are prepared for high-water rescues as needed in an area where at least nine levee breaches have been reported in Randolph County alone.

The Black River reached record levels this week in parts of Arkansas and Missouri, following storms that dumped up to a foot of rain on parts of the two states last weekend. More rain fell Wednesday and Thursday, keeping river levels dangerously high.

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8:30 a.m.

Officials are warning of the dangers left behind by a devastating flood as hundreds of displaced residents prepare to return to their homes along the Meramec River in suburban St. Louis.

The Meramec reached record and near-record levels at several towns after torrential rains last weekend caused a sudden jump in the river level. At least 200 homes and dozens of businesses were damaged.

Missouri is among several states in the central U.S. where dangerous floods have occurred. Nine deaths are blamed on the flooding.

St. Louis County officials are warning that floodwater can contain raw sewage, chemicals and others dangers. Health officials say children should not play in floodwater, and that children and pets should avoid toys soaked in the water. Wild animals displaced by flooding also pose a potential threat.

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12:05 a.m.

River levels are falling after record and near-record flooding in parts of the Midwest, but the crisis is far from over.

The troublesome Black River that runs from southeast Missouri into northeast Arkansas was down after cresting earlier this week in places like Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and Pocahontas, Arkansas. But the mess left behind is substantial after the river reached record levels in both places.

The Meramec River in suburban St. Louis also is on the decline. A levee at Valley Park, Missouri, is holding, as is a sandbag levee consisting of 250,000 bags in nearby Eureka. Residents aren’t breathing easy yet: More rain on Thursday will keep the river high for several days.

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