Storms over Cromwell, Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Waterlogged parts of the central U.S. braced Wednesday for more rain, following days of severe storms that have battered Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma and caused at least three deaths.
Authorities urged residents of several small towns in Oklahoma and Kansas to leave their homes as rivers and streams rose. The Arkansas River was approaching historic highs, while the already high Missouri and Mississippi Rivers were again rising after a multi-day stretch of storms that produced dozens of tornadoes. Forecasters predicted parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas could see more severe weather Wednesday night into Thursday.
"The biggest concern is more rain," Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said during a news conference following an aerial tour with Tulsa Mayor G.W. Bynum and other officials Wednesday morning.
Officials encouraged residents in the Tulsa suburbs of Sand Springs and Bixby; in Fort Gibson, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Tulsa; and in Webbers Falls, some 70 miles (113 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa, to leave. All four communities are along the Arkansas River. Residents in low-lying areas along creeks north and south of Okmulgee, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Tulsa were also advised to leave their homes.
Near Crescent, about 34 miles (55 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City, erosion left several homes hanging over the swollen Cimarron River. One unoccupied home rolled into the river Tuesday, and authorities say others could collapse.
In Kansas, residents in parts of the city of Iola, along the Neosho River, were being urged to evacuate and officials had set up on emergency shelter at a community college, said Corey Schinstock, assistant city administrator. If the river reaches its predicted crest of 27.8 feet (8.47 meters) Thursday, it would be the second-worst flood ever for the town of about 5,400 residents.
The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for northeastern Oklahoma through the weekend and in southeastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri through Thursday afternoon.
The deluge inundated roadways, closing highways in 22 Oklahoma counties and 17 Kansas counties, along with more than 330 Missouri roads. Amtrak suspended train service Wednesday and Thursday along a route between St. Louis and Kansas City because of congestion and flood-related delays.
More than 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain has fallen since Sunday in parts of Oklahoma after an already rainy spring.
"Any rainfall we get just continues to saturate the soils that are already saturated. Especially rivers and streams," said Oklahoma State Climatologist Gary McManus.
"There is simply nowhere for this water to go" as it flows downstream from Kansas, according to McManus.