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10 dead as storms ravage US Midwest

A street sweeper cleans up debris oustside Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on April 23, in St. Louis, Missouri. Severe storms that ripped through the central United States left at least 10 people dead in the state of Arkansas, as authorities Tuesday warned of "historic" flooding and urged people immediately to move to higher ground. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 26, 2011
Severe storms that ripped through the central United States left at least 10 people dead in the state of Arkansas, as authorities Tuesday warned of "historic" flooding and urged people immediately to move to higher ground.

Torrential downpours have drenched a swath of the US midwest in recent weeks, saturating the ground and leaving river levels precariously high, leading the National Weather Service to warn of "catastrophic flash flooding."

In flash flooding advisories for Missouri, the NWS warned that the rising waters were "historic-type flooding that only rarely occurs."

Authorities were evacuating 1,000 people along the swollen Black River near the Missouri city of Poplar Bluff, home to some 17,000 people, as a compromised levee had reportedly already failed at four points.

Due to the placement of the failure, city deputy police chief Jeff Rolland told CNN the river's flooding was headed for rural but still populated Butler County.

Flash flood warnings were issued by the weather service in Arkansas in the wake of severe thunderstorms that flooded roads, fatally sweeping away at least six people in their vehicles, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Renee Presslar confirmed to AFP.

A deadly tornado, meanwhile, slammed the central town of Vilonia late Monday, claiming the lives of four people, said ADEM spokesman Chad Stover.

"There are a lot of responders still responding to yesterday's storm, and then preparation is underway for another round of even more severe (storms) than we saw yesterday, appearing later this afternoon, later this evening," Stover said earlier Tuesday.

"The entire state is at very severe risk for storm," he said. "We are urging all of our local citizens to be prepared, to have a plan for their families and where they would go for severe weather."

Emergencies were declared by governors in the states of Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky due to the flooding and the expected new round of storms.

Governor Pat Quinn in Illinois also activated the state's National Guard to "support flood-fighting and life safety missions in southern Illinois," his office said.

The NWS in its flash flood warning for three counties in Missouri's southwest said a "combination of heavy rainfall over the last five days... along with anticipated rainfall over the next 24 to 48 hours" has prompted the river to rise to 21.2 feet (6.4 meters).

That rise would easily eclipse the river's flood stage of 16.0 feet (4.8 meters), said the NWS.

In central and south Indiana the NWS issued a flash flood watch amid warnings of more thunderstorms expected through to Wednesday, saying heavy rains on already saturated ground could lead to overflowing rivers later in the week.

The NWS issued a tornado warning for westernmost Kentucky, saying the accompanying thunderstorm could also produce golf ball size hail.

Earlier the service had issue an urgent warning for the small Kentucky town of Sulphur where a dam was on the brink of failing: "If you live near this river... evacuate to higher ground now!"

The destructive weather come after weeks of storms sweeping the country's midwestern states, including a massive tornado that tore through St. Louis international airport on Friday that ripped off the roof of the main terminal and blew out windows and doors, but causing no fatalities.

Powerful tornadoes also struck several southern and central US states earlier this month, killing 44 people and reducing whole neighborhoods to rubble.

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St. Louis airport to reopen after tornado damage
Chicago (AFP) April 24, 2011
The airport in the US city of St. Louis was expected to resume most of its operations Sunday after tornadoes and high winds tore through the Midwestern city, cutting a swath of destruction. Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was to reopen at about 70 percent capacity after restoration of power and clearing the debris, authorities said. Richard Bradley, president the St. Louis Board ... read more

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