Waterlogged parts of the central U.S. were bracing Wednesday for more rain, following days of severe storms that have battered Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma and caused at least three deaths.
Officials were urging residents of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, some 70 miles (113 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa, to leave their homes as the Arkansas River approached near-historic levels in the town of about 600 people. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma through the weekend. More than 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain has fallen since Sunday in parts of Oklahoma after an already rainy spring.
“The biggest concern is more rain. I mean, there’s more rain in the forecast for Tulsa, for northern Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said during a news conference following an aerial tour with Tulsa Mayor G.W. Bynum and other officials Wednesday morning.
The deluge inundated roadways, closing highways in 17 Kansas counties, along with more than 330 Missouri roads. Amtrak also suspended train service Wednesday and Thursday along a route between St. Louis and Kansas City because of congestion and flood-related delays.
Forecasters say parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas could see more severe weather Wednesday night into Thursday, the latest in a multi-day stretch of storms that have produced dozens of tornadoes.
Bynum said Tulsa is so far safe from the rising Arkansas River, which the National Weather Service said was at 34.5 feet (10.5 meters), or 6.5 feet (2 meters) above flood stage, as of Wednesday morning. The river was expected to rise to 40 feet (12 meters) by Thursday morning.
“The levee system is working the way it’s supposed to right now. The river park is serving as a buffer along the river corridor,” Bynum said.
Deaths from the storms include a 74-year-old woman found early Wednesday morning in Iowa. Officials there say she was killed by a possible tornado that damaged a farmstead in Adair County. Missouri authorities said heavy rain was a contributing factor in the deaths of two people in a traffic accident Tuesday near Springfield.
A fourth weather-related death may have occurred in Oklahoma, where the Highway Patrol said an unidentified woman apparently drowned after driving around a barricade Tuesday into high water near Perkins, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northeast of Oklahoma City, and was swept off the highway. The unidentified woman’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office to confirm the cause of death. Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said she isn’t yet listed as what would be the state’s first storm-related death.