Mississippi River Flood Threatens Midwest as It Nears Historic Levels

By Tiffany Meier

Record-breaking floods continue to threaten the Midwest, as more heavy rains continue to fall, shutting down multiple roads, schools, and bridges.

The National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center warned of a moderate risk in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois on day 2 of “excessive rainfall.”

On Tuesday, May 28, the NWS St. Louis office said the Mississippi River is projected to swell to a crest of 44 feet in St. Louis this week, making it the second highest crest of record—the highest being the Great Flood of 1993 which crested at 49.58 feet, according to WSIL.

“This has definitely been a year for the record books. It’s certainly on the short list for worst [local] river flooding ever,” senior meteorologist Thomas Spriggs told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s going to go on for a while longer yet.”

In St. Louis, the Mississippi River has already been above flood stage for 73 consecutive days this year, according to the publication.

Spriggs added that the heavy snowpack in areas north of the river basin set the stage for the high waters this spring. He said that while “the snowmelt factor is pretty much gone at this point,” he explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that wet soil across the area increases runoff from precipitation.

Arkansas River homes 1
Homes are flooded near South 145th West Ave. near Oklahoma 51 on the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Okla., on May 24, 2019. (Tom Gilbert/Tulsa World via AP)

Data for the months of February through April this year from the National Weather Service show “above average” precipitation levels in Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois, among others, showing the “wettest conditions on record for that time span.”

Spriggs said, “May is another wet month that happened to us, so it’ll probably add to these ranks.”

Further south, where the Arkansas River is, the situation is even worse. There, the Arkansas River is expected to crest in Van Buren at 42.5 feet on Wednesday, which is 4 feet higher than its historic high in 1945.

“We’re witnessing a record flood, something as we’ve never seen before,” Mayor of Fort Smith George McGill said Sunday, according to KNWA. “Rest assured we’re going to recover from this. The flood is going to be record-breaking, but it’s not going to break Fort Smith, and it’s not going to break the River Valley.”

As of Monday, state highway officials have closed down two bridges over the Arkansas River in Fort Smith, according to KNWA.

Congressman Steve Womack was in the area on Monday and saw the flooding up close. He told KNWA that while people in the area wait for help from Congress to come, the city is doing what it needs to do.

“The rest of the city is doing what great, resilient communities do,” Womack told KNWA. “They come together—churches, civic organizations, chambers. They work together to meet the emerging demands of the local population.”