The Latest: Levee topped, streets flooded in Jefferson City
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Latest on tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest (all times local):
Floodwaters from the Missouri River have topped a levee at Jefferson City and shut down some streets around the state Capitol as residents continue cleaning up from a powerful tornado.
The flooding Friday had been forecast following heavy rain throughout the Midwest earlier in the week. Yet it still caught some people by surprise, as it came on a hot sunny day. The city’s airport had already been evacuated, but other residents and workers drove precariously through flooded roads in north Jefferson City to escape the rising waters.
The Capitol building sits on a bluff on the south side of the river and is not in danger of flooding.
The tornado that struck just before midnight Wednesday also spared the Capitol but tore a three-mile path through the city.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed the Arkansas National Guard to send high-water rescue teams to the western part of the state in anticipation of what’s expected to be record flooding on the Arkansas River this weekend.
The governor said Friday that he directed the Guard to send two, 13-member rescue teams to western Arkansas by Saturday morning. Hutchinson says the team will follow the floodwaters as they move to the southeast through the state.
Hutchinson urged residents to follow instructions from local emergency officials, especially if an evacuation is ordered.
The Arkansas River is expected to crest at record levels in parts of the state because of a massive amount of water moving downstream from Oklahoma and Kansas.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Tulsa is increasing the amount of water being released from a dam as flooding continues along the Arkansas River in Oklahoma and moves into western Arkansas.
Following an aerial tour of the region Friday morning, Sen. James Lankford said the release from Keystone Dam is being increased from 215,000 cubic feet per second to 250,000 cfs to control the flooding that has followed days of violent storms and heavy rains blamed for at least seven deaths in Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa.
Lankford said the dam is doing what it should in keeping the flooding “at a manageable level.”
As the water flows downstream, record flooding is predicted in western Arkansas where the river is expected to reach 41 feet (12.5 meters) by Sunday. That’s nearly 20 feet (6 meters) above flood stage and 3 feet (0.9 meters) above the previous record.
In Tulsa, the river was just above 22 feet (6.71 meters) Friday morning, four feet (1.22 meters) above flood stage.
A specialized task force says 11 structures were destroyed and 157 were damaged by a tornado that hit Jefferson City, Missouri.
Missouri Task Force 1 deployed to the state’s capital city after the tornado on Wednesday night. Members worked through a 3-square-mile area that took the brunt of the damage.
The State Emergency Management Agency activated the team at the request of the Jefferson City Fire Department. The team members include disaster search and rescue specialists, engineers, canines, paramedics and other specialists.
KRCG reports the teams found 1005 structures with no damage, 157 damaged structures, 55 failed structures and 11 structures completely destroyed.
About two dozen people were injured during the tornado, but no fatalities were reported.
Forecasters are predicting record flooding in western Arkansas in communities along the Arkansas River because of huge amounts of water headed downstream from Oklahoma and Kansas.
In Van Buren, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, the river is expected to reach 41 feet (12.5 meters) by Sunday. That’s nearly 20 feet (6 meters) above flood stage and 3 feet (0.9 meters) above the previous record of 38.1 feet (11.61 meters), set in 1945. Nearby Fort Smith is also expecting record flooding.
The river was at 32 feet on Friday morning, or just above major flood stage.
The weather service says “near catastrophic flooding” occurs at 37 feet (11 meters), and that the predicted river levels will create “an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.”
Further downstream, forecasters expect major but not record flooding in Little Rock by June 1.
Residents affected by a powerful tornado in Missouri’s capital city now could have to withstand some hot weather without electricity to their homes.
Electricity provider Ameren Missouri said Friday that crews have been working around the clock to try to replace about 200 broken power poles in Jefferson City and Eldon and re-string the lines.
Ameren Missouri division director Chip Webb says it may be the end of Saturday before power is fully restored in Jefferson City. He says crews hope to have the power back on later Friday in Eldon, another central Missouri town hit by a tornado.
High temperatures are forecast in the mid-to-upper 80s both Friday and Saturday.
Webb says Ameren has been using drones to inspect the power lines, which goes more quickly than manual observations.