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Photo: Arkansas National Guard/Facebook

Communities in the Plains and Midwest were bracing for more severe weather Monday — with the National Weather Service warning those along the Arkansas River of a "dangerous and life threatening situation" with "near catastrophic flooding."

Details: Fort Smith, on the border with Oklahoma, is expected to be one of the worst-hit areas. The NWS warns businesses there to be prepared to be "severely flooded." The Arkansas River reached 38.2 feet near the city Sunday, surpassing the crest of 38.1 feet set in April 1945, AP notes.

  • At Van Buren, the river reached 37.59 feet. The NWS forecasts it could rise past the record 38.1 feet, as major flooding continues for days.
  • Flooding is also forecast along the Mississippi River, with the NWS predicting
    severe storms possible by Tuesday night. The river has already crested and hit major flooding stages in several parts, the Belleville News Democrat reports, and it's set to rise further over the coming days.
  • Louisiana is expected to open the Morganza Spillway flood-control structure in early June to cope with the deluge, meteorologist Jeff Masters writes on Weather Underground.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freeman: It's not surprising that rivers large and small are cresting above levels seen during any previous flood in history in the Plains and Midwest. Round after round of severe thunderstorms have plagued the region this spring, producing extraordinary rainfall totals on top of earlier snowmelt-related flooding. Such precipitation extremes are consistent with what is expected as the climate warms, since warmer air carries (and delivers) more moisture. Stuck, highly amplified jet stream patterns have also been tied to climate change in some studies.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
11 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.