ST. LOUIS — Strong thunderstorms brought heavy rain and flash flooding to parts of Missouri, Illinois and Iowa on Tuesday, shutting down at least three major highways and forcing evacuations and water rescues.
The storms dumped up to 10 inches of rain, causing many streams and creeks to flow out of their banks. Dozens of roads were closed for part of the day, including sections of U.S. 36 near Hanniba, U.S. 61 at the Iowa-Missouri border and U.S. 63 near Kirksville.
"There's quite a bit of water in places we don't normally have it," said Mark Giessinger, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation.
There were no immediate reports of death or serious injury.
The worst of the damage appeared to be in Hannibal, Mark Twain's hometown. Swollen creeks and overburdened drainage systems caused flooding at the General Mills plant, forcing it to close. Emergency director John Hark said several homes and businesses were flooding, including a day care center, where 15 children were safely evacuated. The Missouri State Highway Patrol and the state Water Patrol were brought in to help with rescues.
"We've got numerous water rescues, we've got numerous homes flooded and people stranded in automobiles," Hark said. "We're just taking them on a priority basis."
Many areas had 5-plus inches of rain. Putnam County in far northeast Missouri reported 9 inches; neighboring Schuyler County had 10 inches.
John Campbell, operations director for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, said flash flood warnings were in affect for 18 northern Missouri counties — and more heavy rain was possible.
"I would really caution folks to be aware of their surroundings as they're driving," he said.
The National Weather Service had reports of tornadoes in Sullivan and Mercer counties in Missouri. High winds also toppled trees in New London and damaged RVs in Macon.
The sudden surge of water was bad news, too, along the Mississippi River, which has already flooded several times this year. The river quickly rose above flood stage again from the southern tip of Iowa south through Hannibal, though major flooding is not expected.
Hark has been involved in flood-fighting in Hannibal for decades, including the massive floods of 1993, 1995 and 2008. But in some ways, he said, the situation Tuesday was worse.
"The river flooding, we have a little bit of control over," he said, referring to the levee that protects the Mark Twain sites and other areas of downtown Hannibal. "This flash flooding is not like controlled flooding.
"We have quite a mess going on right now."