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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are saying that three recent explosions at levees have helped ease the dangerously swollen Mississippi River, though the waterway continues to rise to historic levels and threatens to overrun some cities.
Emergency officials from Missouri to Mississippi scrambled Wednesday to prepare for potential flooding as the river continued to rise. Fears have prompted an emergency declaration for 920,000 residents in Memphis and surrounding Shelby County, Tennessee, where authorities blocked some suburban streets and more than 200 people evacuated to shelters.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted a Mississippi River levee upstream of Cairo, Illinois, to save the town from flooding. The plan seems to have worked. Water at the point where the Ohio River meets the Mississippi has dropped 1.7 feet since the blasting, down from a record 61.72 feet, but flood fears remain farther south. With more rain on the way next week, every ingredient for major flooding is coming together at once along the Mississippi River.
Heavy snowmelts from Minnesota and North Dakota combined with three large rain events this year have triggered the rising river levels, says Bob Anderson, an Army Corps spokesman based in Vicksburg, Mississippi. While the levee breaches helped bring down water levels in some areas, relentless water pressure continued to threaten river communities in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys.
In Memphis, water levels are expected to crest at 48 feet on May 10, just shy of the 48.7-foot record set in 1937. Flash flooding is already happening along local tributaries and evacuations are under way. The flood threat is expected to continue into Mississippi and Louisiana, according to forecasts by the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center.
The last big flood was in 1993 when the Mississippi and Missouri rivers broke free of their banks.
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