Residents in the U.S. Midwest fought to save their homes Friday after heavy rainstorms pushed swollen rivers out of their banks, and a fresh snowstorm blew through parts of the Upper Midwest, cancelling flights and some Good Friday services.
Along the Meramec River in eastern Missouri, residents of Valley Park hoped the town's $49 million US earthen levee, built in 2005 to withstand a 100-year flood, would pass its first big test. The surging Meramec was expected to crest at a record 12 metres on Saturday — seven metres above flood stage.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Missouri Public Safety said the levee was in good shape, but some residents decided to leave for higher ground as a precaution.
"The biggest thing is not knowing what to expect," said Donna Gerstein-Russell, who moved to the area in January.
Heavy snow fell or was expected from Minnesota to Ohio. Milwaukee got about 35 centimetres Friday and 25 centimetres fell in Red Wing, Minn.
The timing of the storm was disappointing for dozens of Wisconsin church officials who cancelled Good Friday services.
Snow forced the cancellation of about 400 flights and delayed numerous others at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
Northern Ohio residents prepared for an expected eight to 15 centimetres of snow, while flood victims in the southern parts of the state began the arduous task of cleaning up after some of the heaviest rain in years.
A blizzard warning remained in effect in northern Maine, where fierce winds scattered snow, uprooted trees and brought down power lines.
Parts of the Midwest got 30 centimetres of rain over a 36-hour period this week, causing widespread flash flooding. The worst flooding happened in smaller rivers across the nation's midsection. Major channels such as the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers saw only minor flooding.
In Arkansas, residents of the tiny prairie community of Georgetown along the White River were warned to leave the area Friday after forecasters said a backwater slough would cut off access by late evening and leave them stranded well into next week.
"Stock up or get out. You may be there a few days," said Steve Bays, a hydrologist with the U.S. National Weather Service.
Rivers receded Friday in Ohio, but several areas remained under flood warnings. About 60 state roads were closed or partly blocked by flooding; crews were trying to pump water off a major route into Columbus, according to the State Highway Patrol.
In Missouri, eyes were on the levee in Park Valley. With nearly one-third of the town's 6,500 residents at risk if the levee breaks or is overtopped, authorities took no chances. They set up a staging area full of rescue trucks and a boat in a school parking lot near the town, said Chesterfield Fire Department Capt. Steve Smith.
Army Corps of Engineers spokesman George Stringham said some water had seeped through the levee, but the leakage was not unusual and posed no danger to the levee's structural integrity. He said the corps expects the levee to hold throughout the weekend.
"We're 100 per cent confident with how it's working out out there," Stringham said.
Government weather forecasters warned that some flooding could continue in the coming days because of record rainfall and melting snow pack across much of the Midwest and Northeast.
At least 16 deaths have been linked to the weather over the past few days, and at least two people whose vehicles were swept away by rushing water Tuesday were still missing in Arkansas.