Southern states brace for flooding as overflowing Midwest rivers recede

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Flood Danger Continues in 2016

(Reuters) -- Overflowing rivers were receding in Missouri and Illinois on Friday after flooding swamped communities and forced towns to evacuate, with forecasters warning that rain-swollen waterways flowing downstream could menace Southern states.

At least 28 people have died in the U.S. Midwest since the weekend in rare winter floods, mostly when driving into flooded areas after storms dropped up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain, officials said. Flooding in the Midwest usually comes in the spring as snowmelt swells rivers.

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Flooding due to storms, Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi
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Southern states brace for flooding as overflowing Midwest rivers recede
VALLEY PARK, MO - JANUARY 1: The flooded overpass intersection of Interstate 44 and Highway 141 seen on January 1, 2016 in Valley Park, Missouri. After being closed for a number of days, Interstate 44 reopened today as the water begins to recede after record crest of the Meremac River after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
PACIFIC, MO - JANUARY 1: Debbie Kelly is seen down a hallway covered in mud from receded floodwater in her home on January 1, 2016 in Pacific, Missouri. Pacific is one of many Missouri towns looking to rebuild after record crest of the Meremac River after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
ARNOLD, MO - DECEMBER 31: A member of the Missouri National Guard works along Interstate 55 to pump water off the pavment on December 31, 2015 in Arnold, Missouri. The highway has been closed since December 30th as a result of the near record flood crests of the Meremac River after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
ARNOLD, MO - DECEMBER 31: A Missouri Department of Transportation worker works along Interstate 55 on December 31, 2015 in Arnold, Missouri. The highway has been closed since December 30th as a result of the near record flood crests of the Meremac River after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
In this aerial photo, people use a canoe to navigate a flooded street, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arnold, Mo. Surging Midwestern rivers forced hundreds of evacuations, threatened dozens of levees and brought transportation by car, boat or train to a virtual standstill Thursday in the St. Louis area. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
In this aerial photo, road crews pump water off the highway as floodwater covers Interstate 55, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arnold, Mo. Surging Midwestern rivers forced hundreds of evacuations, threatened dozens of levees and brought transportation by car, boat or train to a virtual standstill Thursday in the St. Louis area. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
FENTON, MO - DECEMBER 30: A Circle K gas station is completely submerged on Route 141 on December 30, 2015 in Fenton, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are experiencing record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
FENTON, MO - DECEMBER 30: Gravios Road is fully submerged at the Sunset Hills, Missouri city line on December 30, 2015 in Fenton, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are experiencing record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
HIGH RIDGE, MO - DECEMBER 30: The Meremac River floods a plain on December 30, 2015 in High Ridge, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are experiencing record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Flood waters reached the homes along South Fifth Street on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015 in Pacific, Mo. (Huy Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
ARNOLD, MO - DECEMBER 30: A flooded out home is seen as the Meremac River has overflowed on December 30, 2015 in Arnold, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are experiencing record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Dusablon and Richard Kotva move from the Circle K at Springdale Park as they worked to move electronics off the floor south of Fenton on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
Saline Valley Fire Protection District firefighters, including Nathan Miller, right, helped four people and three dogs escape a flooded mobile home on Babs Lane at Old Highway 141 south of Fenton on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
ARNOLD, MO - DECEMBER 30: A resident canoes himself down a street submerged in floodwater from the Meremac River on December 30, 2015 in Arnold, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are experiencing record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
FENTON, MO - DECEMBER 30: Trash and debris is seen along a line of local business as the Meremac river floods on December 30, 2015 in Fenton, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region experiencing record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
FENTON, MO - DECEMBER 30: Workers work to install sandbags outside a business on December 30, 2015 in Fenton, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region experiencing record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
FENTON, MO - DECEMBER 30: John Tosti, owner of Tosti's Transmission wades in the water after inspecting his business as it takes on floodwater on December 30, 2015 in Fenton, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region experiencing record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
In this aerial photo, a house is surrounded by floodwater, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Eureka, Mo. A rare winter flood threatened nearly two dozen federal levees in Missouri and Illinois on Wednesday as rivers rose, prompting evacuations in several places. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
In this aerial photo, homes are surrounded by floodwater, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in West Alton, Mo. A rare winter flood threatened nearly two dozen federal levees in Missouri and Illinois on Wednesday as rivers rose, prompting evacuations in several places. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Floodwater from the Bourbeuse River surrounds a McDonald's restaurant, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Union, Mo. Torrential rains over the past several days pushed already swollen rivers and streams to virtually unheard-of heights in parts of Missouri and Illinois. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Lisa Lemons stands on a hill overlooking floodwater from the Bourbeuse River, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
A holiday wreath hangs from a light post surrounded by floodwater from the Bourbeuse River, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
People stand on a hill to get a better look at floodwater from the Bourbeuse River Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Floodwater from the Bourbeuse River surrounds businesses, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
A Christmas decoration hangs on the door of a home surrounded by floodwater from the Bourbeuse River, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Floodwater from the Bourbeuse River surrounds a Super 8 hotel Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Cathy Hoffman stops to look at the swollen Bourbeuse River Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Heavy equipment is used to build a temporary levee to hold back floodwater Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Kimmswick, Mo. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency due to wide spread flooding around the state that has closed many roads. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
William Stanley and his daughter Brittany Cole upright overturned equipment on the property on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. (Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
Spring River flooding Sunday displaced William Stanley and his extended family from their trailer homes in Kendricktown, an unincorporated community in Jasper County just north of Carthage, Mo. On Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, family members look over the damage. Brody, a Labrador retriever, rode out the flooding inside Stanley's son Jeremy Rickman's home. (Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
William Stanley, right, comes in and hugs his daughter Brittany Cole on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. The Coles, who have four children, said they had spent $10,000 remodeling the home with new floors, cabinets, furniture and appliances. (Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
WEST ALTON, MO - DECEMBER 29: US Highway 67 is completely submerged on December 29, 2015 in West Alton, Missouri. Local authorities have called for a voluntary evacuation of the town. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are bracing for record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 29: Volunteers create and load sandbags on the banks of the River Des Peres on December 29, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are bracing for record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 29: Volunteers create and load sandbags on the banks of the River Des Peres on December 29, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are bracing for record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
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Dozens died in U.S. storms that were part of a wild worldwide weather system over the Christmas holiday period which has also brought heavy floods and storms to Britain.

More than 100,000 people have had to evacuate from their homes in areas bordering Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina due to severe flooding in the wake of heavy summer rains brought on by El Niño, authorities said last week.

Weather is dominating conversation on social media over the holiday season after the international climate deal in Paris.

Close to St. Louis on Friday, the water level on the Mississippi River, the second-longest river in the U.S., was falling on Friday after reaching near-record heights, the National Weather Service said.

The Meramec River, which meanders near St. Louis and empties into the Mississippi River, broke height records on Thursday, sending a deluge of water over its banks and forcing the closure of two major interstate highways.

Thousands of people evacuated from their homes earlier in the week were waiting to return to their communities and begin the process of cleaning up. Hundreds of structures have been damaged or destroyed, local officials said.

Towns farther down the Mississippi hoped their levees would resist rising river levels. Southern states like Louisiana and Mississippi will be affected in coming days, the National Weather Service said.

The Mississippi is expected to crest in the small town of Thebes, in southern Illinois, at 47.5 feet (14 meters) on Sunday, more than 1-1/2 feet above the 1995 record, the NWS said.

Workers in Tennessee were preparing for the Mississippi River in Memphis to reach flood stage over the weekend.

"We're moving things up high and we've got our generators out and got some extra water," said Dotty Kirkendoll, a clerk at Riverside Park Marina on McKellar Lake, which feeds off the Mississippi River.

Major flooding was also occurring on the Arkansas River and its tributaries in that state, the NWS said.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency to prepare for flooding.

"All that water's coming south and we have to be ready for it," Lieutenant Governor-Elect Billy Nungesser told CNN. "It's a serious concern. It's early in the season. We usually don't see this until much later."

Watch more coverage:

Over 9 Million in U.S. Midwest Still Face Flood Warnings

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