LITTLE ROCK, Ark (Reuters) - Tornadoes and floods, which have killed at least 10 people in Arkansas this week, threatened more destruction in the mid-South and Ohio Valley region Tuesday and Wednesday, forecasters said.
On Tuesday morning, the levee on the swollen Black River near Poplar Bluff in southeastern Missouri was breached south of the city, local officials said.
More than 1,000 people were evacuated on fears of flash flooding. Authorities continued to help people leave their homes on Tuesday afternoon as the river overflowed the levee.
“We are continuing our efforts to get them out of harm’s way,” said Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs.
So far, no more injuries or deaths have been reported.
A three-year-old girl was killed early on Tuesday in Mississippi after an oak tree fell on her family’s home during storms that brought 70 mph winds, said Jeff Rent, director of external affairs for the state’s Emergency Management Agency.
Ten people were killed in Arkansas from Monday’s storms and flooding — six from flood waters and four from a tornado that hit the town of Vilonia. About 44,000 Arkansas residents were still without power as of Tuesday afternoon.
Some of the same towns still recovering from tornadoes that ripped through Arkansas on Monday may be struck again. The state issued fresh tornado warnings late on Tuesday afternoon.
The storms and flooding were the latest in the violent weather that has pummeled much of the mid-South this month. Two weeks ago more than 47 people died as storms tore a wide path from Oklahoma all the way to North Carolina.
The greatest threat of more violent storms on Tuesday evening was a region stretching from northeast Texas to Memphis, Tennessee, according to John Hart, meteorologist with the National Storm Prediction Center.
The threat will continue through the night, moving into the Mississippi Valley by daybreak, he said.
On Wednesday, Hart added, more severe weather with the possibility of strong tornadoes is expected from Ohio southward through the Tennessee Valley and into portions of Mississippi and Alabama.
Flooding also is an ongoing concern along rivers in Indiana, Ohio, southern Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Flood warnings have prompted evacuations of hundreds of people in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri following days of rain that led to rivers cresting over the flood stage, according to forecasters.
More than 200 Indiana National Guardsman and 30 inmates are assisting with sandbagging efforts, according to the state’s Department of Homeland Security.
In southern Illinois, 325,000 sandbags were placed at a facility in Carbondale for quick deployment if floods threatened, the state’s emergency management agency said.
Many towns have flooding along the Ohio River from Cincinnati several hundred miles southwest to the Mississippi River, said National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Szappanos in Louisville, Kentucky.
Some areas of Kentucky may get another six inches of rain, said Buddy Rogers, spokesman for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.
One problem for towns along the Ohio River is that the Mississippi and the Ohio are flooding at the same time, so the Ohio, which usually drains into the bigger river, can’t drain, Rogers said.
To prevent flooding in Cairo, Illinois, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to detonate the levee at Birds Point on the Mississippi, according to the Missouri Attorney General.
But the attorney general has sued in federal court to intervene, saying the action could flood 130,000 acres of farmland in that state.
Late Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it may hold off making a final decision on the controversial plan until Saturday, after the National Weather Service lowered its forecast for flooding on the Mississippi by half a foot.
In Tennessee, many school systems were closed Tuesday due to power outages and trees blocking roadways, especially in an area northwest of Nashville hit hard by Monday storms.
Flood warnings were in effect along the Cumberland and its tributaries.
Additional reporting by Susan Guyett, Tim Ghianni, Leigh Coleman, Kevin Murphy and James B. Kelleher; Writing by Barbara Goldberg and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Peter Bohan and Jerry Norton