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Deadly Storm Threatens Northeast, Central U.S. With Snow, Floods

Forecasters warned that the weather threat was not over Tuesday, with parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois under flood warnings.

The deadly winter storm system that tore through the central U.S. barreled east Tuesday, promising a dangerous mix of snow, sleet and floods.

Tornadoes, blizzards, ice and heavy rains pounded much of the middle of the country over the past week, killing at least 53 people.

Forecasters and officials warned that the threat was not over Tuesday, with parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois under flood warnings.

The Mississippi River at St. Louis was poised for its second-highest crest on record Tuesday, with top-10 crests predicted all along the river’s course from Missouri down to Louisiana.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the National Guard on Tuesday, said the death toll due to weather had spiked to 13, up from eight on Monday morning.

In the St. Louis-area town of West Alton, the Mississippi River spilled over a levee, prompting the mayor to urge everyone in the town of 520 people to evacuate.

Part of the river that runs near St. Louis was closed to traffic, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.“Our foremost concerns are safety of life and navigation, protection of infrastructure and property, and to prevent marine casualties,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Ryan Rhodes.

The flooding also caused the Fenton Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Louis to fail, according to the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, which warned residents to stay away from sewage near the plant.

The Bourbeuse River, which runs near St. Louis, had risen to a record-breaking 34 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

In Illinois, the Menard Correctional Center, with 3,700 inmates, was on lockdown as crews were “working around the clock” to keep floodwaters away from the prison, said Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson.

The Mississippi River in Thebes, Illinois, was expected to remain at a record-breaking levels for more than three days and wouldn’t likely crest until New Year’s Day, according to Dr. Matt Sitkowski, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel.

And Oklahoma was bracing for another round of snow after blizzard conditions in that state had left five people dead and 104 injured since Saturday, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

Country singer Craig Strickland was missing and his friend had been killed while the two were duck hunting in the stormy conditions on Kaw Lake in Oklahoma. Chase Morland's body was found in the lake on Monday, according to a statement from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

About 84,000 customers across the state were without power, according to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

The Northeast, meanwhile, faced a slippery commute thanks to plunging temperatures and a messy mix of freezing rain and sleet. Upstate New York and much of New England remained under winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories Tuesday afternoon.

About 4,000 flights scheduled for Tuesday were delayed or canceled by the afternoon, with Newark, Dallas and Chicago airports hardest hit.

“The good news is that New Year’s should be a lot quieter,” said Weather Channel lead forecaster Kevin Roth. “The Midwest is calming down and there is still plenty of snow around but by the time we get to Tuesday evening the storm should be finally pulling away.”

He said snow will largely be confined to upstate New York, Maine and Vermont — though Iowa also was expected to see powder.

With the storm moving east, the central U.S. was still reeling from the hit.

In Arkansas, Benton County Judge Bob Clinard issued an Emergency Disaster Declaration late Monday due to widespread flash flooding. A family home in Madison County was destroyed by a mudslide, while high-water rescue crews deployed in force as flooding forced evacuations in Branson, Missouri.

A tractor trailer and a school bus carrying as many as 20 students were rescued after their vehicles were swept up by flood waters on Monday, in southern Illinois, according to state police.

With near record-setting rainfall in the region over the past 36 hours, it could take days for floodwaters to recede — and more torrential rainstorms were predicted in the South and Southeast on Wednesday, Roth said.

In New York City and much of the Northeast, ice and snow tapered off into rain showers that are likely to last through Wednesday night into Thursday, NBC New York reported.