Flooding closes I-44 in central Missouri

More rain and flooding is forecast across the nation, including Alabama, Missouri, Illinois, and Georgia.

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Volunteers fill sandbags in a effort to hold back rising floodwaters Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Kimmswick, Mo. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency due to wide spread flooding around the state that has closed many roads.

Authorities say a stretch of Interstate 44 in central Missouri is completely closed because of flooding.

The Missouri State Department of Transportation announced Tuesday morning that the closure is affecting eastbound and westbound lanes just west of Rolla in Phelps County.

Transportation officials say drivers using detour routes should expect delays and longer travel times.

Closures also were a problem Monday, with westbound I-44 traffic stopped in Phelps County and eastbound traffic closed in Laclede County.

A wastewater treatment plant has stopped operating near St. Louis, causing sewage to go directly into nearby rivers and streams.

The Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis said Tuesday that recent heavy rainfall and the flooding on the Meramec River are the apparent cause of problems at the Fenton wastewater treatment plant. The plant stopped operating Monday night.

Utility officials said the plant is designed for 6.75 million gallons per day of flow, but was treating nearly 24 million gallons per day at the time of the malfunction.

The public is urged to avoid contact with floodwater or sewage in low-lying flooded areas near the plant. It isn't clear when the plant would start operating again.

In Texas, a powerful line of weekend storms that spawned multiple tornadoes, destroyed several hundred homes and displaced residents throughout the Dallas suburbs.

At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in the tornadoes that swept through the area on Saturday, pushed by a powerful storm system that continued to hit the nation's midsection on Monday with heavy snow, ice, rain, flooding and blustery winds. More than 2,800 flights nationwide were canceled Monday — more than half of them at Chicago's two main airports — but that had dropped to 600 by Tuesday morning.

Deaths also were attributed to the recent weather in Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and governors declared disaster declarations in numerous states. Although the weather was expected to fade, more flooding was expected along the swollen Mississippi River on Tuesday.

More rain is on the way to Alabama, where forecasters estimate that more than 10 inches fell in some spots during a six-day span.

The National Weather Service said rain chances will increase across Alabama late Tuesday into Wednesday morning. Forecasters say the additional rains could lead to some flash flooding across the South.

Rainfall estimates from the weather service show that more than 14 inches of rain fell Dec. 21-26 in parts of eastern Alabama and more than 10 inches fell in northwest Alabama.

Flood warnings are in effect across central and southern Illinois a day after a winter storm brought sleet and icy rain.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued flood warnings for areas near Champaign, Charleston, Effingham, Taylorville and Salem.

Major flooding was observed along the Kankakee, Illinois, Sangamon and Vermilion rivers.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said several roadways were closed in southern Illinois because of flooding, including Interstate 70 near Pleasant Mound and roads along the Mississippi River near Chester and the Shawnee National Forest.

The Monday storm brought as much as 3.5 inches of ice accumulation in Rockford and had peak wind gusts of 53 mph in Waukegan.

Ameren Illinois reported about 23,000 power outages, largely in the Galesburg and Peoria area, on Tuesday morning.

Forecasters say more rain is headed to Georgia, where many parts of the state are still dealing with floodwaters from earlier storms.

The National Weather Service says rain is expected to develop early Wednesday, with the heaviest expected over north Georgia.

In a county about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, divers on Monday recovered the body of a man whose car was swept away by floodwaters.

Forecasters said an additional 1 to 2 inches of rain is expected over much of north Georgia. A flood watch covers north Georgia, including all of metro Atlanta, until 7 a.m. Thursday.

In Texas, officials estimated as many as 1,450 homes in the northern part of the state were damaged or destroyed by at least nine tornadoes this past weekend. The National Weather Service has said an EF-4 tornado — the second-most powerful with winds up to more than 200 mph — hit the northeast Dallas suburb of Garland.

Authorities believe the city's eight tornado victims died when their vehicles were thrown from overpasses in the area of Interstate 30 and the George Bush Turnpike, a major route in the region.

"I've never seen anything like this, with this scale of destruction," Police Chief Mitch Bates said Monday.

In Blue Ridge, a tiny town north of Dallas, Debralee King said she tried to save her neighbor's newborn daughter during the chaos. King said she and another neighbor got in a vehicle with the infant, Aleya, and began driving.

"The poor little girl didn't make it," King said.

After Santillano, the infant's father, handed over the child, he rushed back to the mobile home he shared with his wife and three older children, King said. King said she said she couldn't see through the darkness to know then that the trailer had been blown about 50 feet off its base and laid in a pile of wood and aluminum.

First responders showed up and took the husband and wife to a hospital, where he was listed in good condition and she was in critical condition as of Monday. A local church has offered to house the family as they recover.

In nearby Garland, Jacqui Gordon spent Monday sifting through the debris that had been her home. Amid frigid weather, she searched for old family photographs — especially of her father, who died two years ago.

She and nine others were enjoying a holiday gathering when winds began to rattle her home in the Dallas suburb. They dashed into closets and suffered only bumps and bruises, but Gordon's roof was torn away and her house destroyed.

"This is all I had," she said.


Associated Press writers David Warren in Garland and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

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