Some drought-starved Midwestern rivers that had been near record low levels were on the verge of flooding Wednesday, after storms dumped up to 3 inches of rain on some parts of the region.
Forecasters said rivers would see a dramatic, if temporary, rise over the next few days, with some waterways expected to swell by as much as 15 feet. Even the Mississippi River is expected to rise by up to 10 feet in areas between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill. Although the Mississippi will remain far below flood stage, several smaller rivers are expected to spill over their banks.
Smaller waterways rose sharply. The weather service expects minor flooding at the Big River near Richwoods, Mo., the Meramec River at Sullivan, Mo., on the Little Wabash River near Effingham and Clay City in Illinois, and on the Kankaskia River at Vandalia, Ill. Several smaller rivers in Indiana also were approaching flood stage.
The January downpour brought welcome relief for bigger rivers, including the middle Mississippi, where barge traffic has been threatened for nearly three months because the river is so low.
By late Wednesday morning, the river level at St. Louis had risen nearly 2 feet and was expected to rise at least 5 feet more by Monday before gradually declining. Still, with spring rains just weeks away, there was growing optimism that further restrictions on barge traffic may not be necessary.