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Surging rivers near crest, but many Midwestern towns already inundated

Americans throughout the Midwest are working furiously to fight off Mother Nature as the spring flooding season arrives. NBC's John Yang reports.

Heavy river flooding in six Midwestern states that forced evacuations, shut down bridges, swamped homes and caused at least three deaths was at or near crest in some areas Sunday evening.

Rivers surged from the Quad Cities to St. Louis on Sunday. Hours earlier, National Guardsmen, volunteers, homeowners and jail inmates pitched in with sandbagging to hold back floodwaters that closed roads in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Forecasters warned that "more rain was expected in the affected areas Tuesday into Wednesday," according to weather.com.

KSDK's Grant Bissell details the situation surrounding floods in the Midwest along the Mississippi River.

Record flooding swelled in Grand Rapids, Mich., with a crest of over 22 feet expected late Sunday into Monday. The water is expected to peak sometime Monday. 

The basements of some homes in the town of Comstock Park, Mich., were already full of water even before the surge Sunday morning, and the new swell forced some residents to leave their houses by boat.

“I’m surrounded by water all the way around my house,” resident Gary Smith told Grand Rapids NBC station WOOD-TV. “When I step out, I have a porch and then I have one step that’s still visible, and then I step down into at least three feet of water, four feet of water.”

Significant flooding is possible in places like Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Cairo, Ill., later this week, The Associated Press reported. 

The Chicago area, which was hit by widespread flooding over the weekend, was dry for much of the period. But more rain may be on the way on Tuesday and Wednesday as a developing cold front could bring as much as an inch of precipitation to the region, forecasters said.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency as record flooding occurred at a dozen river gauges across the state over the weekend.

All hands pitched in as the hard-hit town of Clarksville, Mo., worked to keep back the waters of the Mississippi River from the historic downtown area.

The river was at 34.7 feet on Sunday afternoon, over 10 feet above the 25-foot flood stage – and was expected to rise another foot before cresting Monday, according to the AP.

Jeff Roberson / AP

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, right, walks away from floodwaters after meeting with members of the Missouri National Guard as they make flood preparations Saturday in Clarksville, Mo.

“This is frustrating for people,” Trish Connelly, 57, told the Associated Press. “This isn’t as bad as 2008, but thank God it stopped raining.”

Hundreds were evacuated from towns in Indiana as the Wabash River rose by 14 feet on Saturday. Authorities in the town of Montezuma, Ind. called in volunteer firefighters to help fill sandbags as waters looked to crest at twice the normal flood stage.

“Right now we are just trying to help people,” town council President Allen Cobb told WTWO. “We’re just trying to keep people calm at this point, let them know the facts as we know them and put down some of the rumors they’re hearing.”

Indiana resident Robert Morgan, 64, of Arcadia, died Friday night after his car was caught by floodwaters and swept 100 yards downstream in Hamilton County, according to a statement from the local sheriff’s office.

The body of another driver and Arcadia resident, 42-year-old David A. Baker, was recovered on Sunday, according to the sheriff’s office. Police responded after receiving a distress call from Baker’s cell phone in the early hours of Saturday, and later recovered his vehicle and dog. Baker’s body was recovered on Sunday morning.

A third confirmed flood-related death occurred in Missouri, according to weather.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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