Thousands of southeastern Missouri residents watched helplessly today as Black River water crept toward their homes after overflowing the levee protecting their town, as officials predicted a "catastrophic failure." Several homes in and around Poplar Bluff were partially submerged, while water filled the front yards of other houses. The river topped the levee in multiple spots, raising concerns that it would give way under the weight of inch after inch of rain that has been falling since the weekend. "It was too late for sandbagging. There are too many places. All we can do is wait and see," Police Chief Danny Whiteley said. A levee break would send water flowing into the city's south side and likely displace about 7,000 people.
Smaller evacuations also took place from Kentucky to Arkansas as rivers and lakes continued to rise. Forecasters called for severe storms that will drop more heavy rain across the lower Ohio and Mississippi River valleys, compounding the misery from a storm system that pounded the region in the past week, spawning tornadoes. Some places have seen up to 15 inches already, and the worst flooding may not come until Wednesday. Two storms with heavy rain and possible tornadoes are moving into the region, with northeast Texas, eastern Oklahoma, and Arkansas expected to feel the brunt, says a meteorologist. Areas in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee are expected to get several more inches of rain, and he predicted "substantial" flooding. (Read more flood stories.)