A brutal storm has been hammering through the midwest, causing havoc and destruction at every turn. Around 60 reported tornadoes, high winds, pounding rain and widespread flooding have resulted in at least four deaths across the region, with more lethal weather predicted for Thursday.
The storms are also causing an array of risks on the ground. In Oklahoma City, two barges came loose from their moorings Wednesday and started careening down the swollen Arkansas River, coming perilously close to striking a dam. As a result, authorities took swift action to evacuate the surrounding towns, including Webbers Falls, which has a population of around 600 people.
“Evacuate Webbers Falls immediately,” town officials posted on Facebook. “The barges are loose and has the potential to hit the lock and dam 16. If the dam breaks, it will be catastrophic!! Leave now!!”
There is no word yet whether or not the barges have struck the dam yet, but the risk remains high. “The biggest concern is more rain,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said during a news conference, according to the Associated Press. “Any rainfall we get just continues to saturate the soils that are already saturated. Especially rivers and streams,” added Oklahoma State Climatologist Gary McManus. “There is simply nowhere for this water to go.”
Several homes continue to hang on at the edge of the river bank, with one spotted rolling into the fast-flowing torrents.
According to USA Today, Oklahoma State University has been completely evacuated and emergency services in the surrounding areas have been inundated with calls to rescue those stranded atop their flooded homes.
In Tulsa, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division has stepped in to try and relieve some of the floodwaters. In a statement posted to Facebook, the Engineers said they were “currently releasing flood water at a rate of approximately 167,000 cubic feet per second,” before noting that this “will be stepped up to approximately 215,000 cubic feet per second later in the day” due to persistent and heavy rainfall.
In neighboring Missouri, a state of emergency has been declared by governor Mike Parson. “We “declared a state of emergency in response to the severe weather & ongoing flooding across Missouri,” Parson wrote on Twitter. “Our prayers are with those affected by the storms.”
Unfortunately, this dangerous weather does not appear to be lifting anytime soon. “Severe thunderstorms, with some strong tornadoes and very large hail, will continue across central portions of the country through early Thursday morning,” the National Weather Service noted on its website. In addition, a Weather Channel report warned that “severe thunderstorms and heavy rain will continue to impact parts of the Plains and Midwest into late-week with damaging winds, large hail, tornadoes and flash flooding.”
Do pray for all those who continue to be affected by this treacherous weather!
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Scott Olson/Staff