River flooding may rival records in Mississippi Valley into January

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Major Mississippi River Flooding Imminent

By AccuWeather

Flooding in the upcoming days and weeks following a tremendous December rainfall could be one for the record books in the Mississippi Valley.

Major flooding along the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas and Meramec rivers will have communities dealing with long-duration high water. Freezing temperatures will cause some flooded areas to turn icy and will add to the challenges.

See images from areas hit by flooding:

22 PHOTOS
Flooding due to storms, Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi
See Gallery
River flooding may rival records in Mississippi Valley into January
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)
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)
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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Flooding on the middle portion of the Mississippi River and its tributaries may reach levels not seen during the winter months since records began during the middle 1800s.

Water levels could rival the mark set during the summer of 1993 and spring of 1995 and 2011 in some cases. Chester and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as well as Thebes, Illinois, could experience record high Mississippi River levels.



As of 11 a.m. CST Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, St. Charles County officials had issued mandatory evacuation orders for West Alton, Missouri, as water was topping levees on the Mississippi River.

Springlike flooding occurs amid El Niño pattern

Since December and November have been so warm and so wet, the atmosphere and watershed are behaving more like the spring.

Temperatures over much of the Mississippi Valley have averaged 8-12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal and featured highs in the 60s and 70s during December.

See the effects of the El Niño weather pattern:

8 PHOTOS
El Nino's effects
See Gallery
River flooding may rival records in Mississippi Valley into January
NOAA has released an update to its El Niño advisory. This image shows the satellite sea surface temperature departure for the month of October 2015, where orange-red colors are above normal temperatures and are indicative of El Niño. This event is forecast to continue through the winter, likely ranking as one of the top 3 strongest events since 1950, before fading in late spring or early summer. El Niño has already produced significant global impacts, and is expected to affect temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States during the upcoming months. Seasonal outlooks generally favor below-average temperatures and above-median precipitation across the southern tier of the United States, and above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation over the northern tier of the United States. (Photo via NOAA)
MAKASSAR, SOUTH SULAWESI, INDONESIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Two girls are seen walk behind of dried up ricefield at Manggara Bombang village, Maros district on September 21, 2015 in Makassar, Indonesia. Indonesia's national disaster management agency has declared that the majority of the country's 34 provinces are experiencing drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, the worst drought in the past five years. The dry season forces villagers to walk long distances to find clean water. (Photo by Agung Parameswara/Getty Images)
NOAA issued an update to the El Niño analysis on September 10, 2015, in which forecasters from the Climate Predication Center say a strong El Niño is in place and likely to peak in late fall/early winter, and gradually weaken through spring 2016. This image shows the satellite-based average sea surface temperature data from the week of August 31 - September 6, 2015. Blue areas are cooler than the 1981-2010 average; red areas are warmer than that historical base period. The large pool of warmer than average temperatures along the equatorial Pacific is indicative of the El Niño conditions. (Photo via NOAA)
Sea surface temperature anomalies in November 1997 (left) compared to July 2015 (right). (Photo via NOAA)
A couple tries to cool off from the heat caused by El Nino with water overflowing from a defunct but still watery reservoir called the Wawa dam in Montalban in Rizal, east of Manila on February 21, 2010. El Niño was expected to dehydrate the Metro Manila area over in the next two months, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa). Earlier this month the government warned a possible drought caused by the El Nino weather system could slash Philippines rice yields this year. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Tons of dead fish are seen on the banks of the Solimoes River due the water's low level, November 25, 2009 near Manaquiri, 120Km from Manaus. The dry season, affected by the weather phenomenon EL Nino, is worse this year. According a study from Brazil's universities USP,UNICAMP,UFRJ and Embrapa, the country could lose some USD 3.6 billion over the next 40 years. AFP PHOTO / ANTONIO SCORZA (Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavy clouds covers Indonesia's capital city of Jakarta on November 29, 2009. The month of November ends the dry season and starts the wet period but the weather bureau anticipates El Nino's dry spell to affect Indonesian weather. AFP PHOTO / Bay ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
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During November and December, frequent storms loaded with abundant moisture have delivered rainfall well above average to much of the Mississippi Basin.

The pattern is typical of an El Niño, but rainfall of this magnitude has crossed into uncharted territory for the region.

Since Nov. 1, St. Louis has received more than 18 inches of rain versus the average of 6.50 inches typical for this time frame. St. Louis shattered its December rainfall record of 7.82 inches set during the El Niño of 1982. This December, St. Louis received 11.74 inches of rain.

Farther north along the Mississippi River, Minneapolis has received nearly two and a half times its normal rainfall since Nov. 1.

Just after Christmas the bursts of rain, which amounted to 6-12 inches in some areas, sealed the fate for river flooding.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews, "Rainfall is significantly less over the central United States during the winter, when compared to the spring and summer."

"During the wintertime, more precipitation falls as snow over the region, which tends to absorb the runoff and causes river levels to fall."

One thing that is contributing to the amount of runoff is low evaporation this time of the year.

"During the summer months, the sun and heat take their cut out of the rainfall. You don't have that during the wintertime, so the ground can stay wet longer," Andrews said.



While the smaller tributaries of the Mississippi will crest quickly following the tremendous rainfall from the storms near Christmas, the larger tributaries and the Mississippi itself will take an extended period of time to crest and then fall below flood stage.

"It will take weeks or until the latter part of January for the last of the crests to cycle southward to the Gulf of Mexico," Andrews said.

Melting snow along with showers and thunderstorms typically herald spring flooding along portions of the Mississippi River every two to three years.

"What is so amazing about the flooding is that is is occurring with very little or no snowmelt," Andrews said.

Flooding potential to persist

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There is the potential for another round of flooding during the spring of 2016.

"We still have to go through the snowy part of the winter season over the North Central states," AccuWeather Chief Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.

The storm track will shift southward during the winter, but will return northward in the spring with the combination of a thaw and rainfall.

"El Niño may still be strong enough to enhance the strength of the storms and the amount of rainfall during the spring," Pastelok said.

There is some good news in the short-term for those battling flooding and trying to protect their property.

The spread of colder air will shut down the storm track into the middle part of the nation through at least the middle part of the first week of January.

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