Several towns in Eastern Oklahoma were evacuated Wednesday after two barges broke loose, floated down the swollen Arkansas River, and threatened to hit a dam, authorities said.
The emergency was the latest consequence of severe storms and torrential rains that have ravaged large swaths of the Midwest. Town officials ordered a mandatory evacuation Wednesday afternoon because of the Arkansas River’s rising level.
Webbers Falls, one of the potentially threatened towns in Oklahoma, warned its 600 residents to evacuate “immediately.”
“The barges are loose and has the potential to hit the lock and dam 16. If the dam breaks, it will be catastrophic!! Leave now!!” the post read.
A church in neighboring Warner had opened an emergency evacuation shelter, KFOR-TV reported.
There was no update by midnight Wednesday where the barges were on the river. Local television stations were showing live video of the river and the lock and dam said they had not yet arrived. Webbers Falls officials said they are working Muskogee County Emergency Management and will notify the public with updates, 5News reported.
For the third consecutive day, dangerous storms prompted numerous tornado warnings and reports of twisters touching down, most in Missouri and Oklahoma.
In Jefferson City, the mayor issued a mandatory evacuation for an area involving a handful of homes. The city’s airport also has been evacuated.
The Arkansas River was approaching historic highs, while the already high Missouri and Mississippi Rivers were again rising after a multi-day stretch of storms that produced dozens of tornadoes. Forecasters predicted parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas could see more severe weather Wednesday night into Thursday.
The deluge inundated roadways, closing highways in 22 Oklahoma counties and 17 Kansas counties, along with more than 330 Missouri roads. Amtrak suspended train service Wednesday and Thursday along a route between St. Louis and Kansas City because of congestion and flood-related delays.
The Arkansas River, which was just above 37 feet, or 9 feet above flood stage, at Muskogee, Oklahoma, was expected to eventually reach 43.5 feet. Officials encouraged residents in several communities along the river to leave their homes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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