May 31, 2019 - Science

Levees breach, forcing thousands to evacuate Central U.S. floods

This image shows a small shop surrounded by floodwater.

Floodwater from the Mississippi River begins to cover the streets on May 30 in Barnhart, Mo. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Flooding in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma has caused thousands to evacuate, as recent levee breaches along the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers create new waterways that have spread into homes and businesses.

The latest: Arkansas officials called for 160 homes in Yell County to evacuate on Friday as a levee breach brought floodwaters to over 40 feet. Three Missouri towns were told to evacuate on Thursday after a levee breached along a creek connected to the Mississippi River. Rivers in the region are at or near all-time highs after weeks of torrential rainfall.

What to watch: Floodwaters are slowly making their way down the Mississippi River toward Louisiana, where the river is expected to crest at the Morganza Spillway by June 2, at the second-highest level on record. Heavy rain will return to the Southern Plains in the first week of June.

The big picture, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: The ongoing flooding is consistent with scientific studies showing the increasingly apparent effects of human-caused climate change. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor on average, which contributes to an uptick in heavy precipitation events. These trends have been seen in much of the U.S. in recent decades.

In Arkansas:

In Oklahoma:

In Missouri:

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