River flooding triggers water rescues, state of emergency declarations across central US

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
February 24, 2018, 11:24:08 AM EST

Persistent rounds of heavy rain, along with melting snow, have caused several key rivers across the central United States to reach or approach major flood stage this week, resulting in evacuations, water rescues, road closures and state of emergency declarations.

At least two deaths have been reported, including a 1-year-old girl found dead in standing water in her backyard in central Michigan, according to the Associated Press.

On Wednesday, a state of emergency was declared in Elkhart, Indiana, as the St. Joseph River that flows through the town rose into major flood stage. Classes were canceled at Elkhart Central High School due to rising floodwaters, with more school cancellations possible later this week as flooding continues.

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese said 19 people were evacuated from low-lying areas and sandbags had been made available. The flooding is said to be the worst in the area in 45 years, according to The Elkhart Truth newspaper.

elkhart flooding 2/22/18

This aerial image shows a flooded football field at Elkhart Central High School in Elkhart, Indiana. (Photo/Twitter user @ryujas1)

South Bend, Indiana, city officials said Thursday that its waste water treatment plant was shut down to preserve treatment processes, but the plant has since restarted while operating at limited capacity. Residents can still use water normally.

"Flooding has not affected City drinking water, which is treated separately and remains safe to drink," officials said.

In Michigan, a state of emergency was declared in the city of Lansing and Lansing Township due to flooding.

A state of emergency was declared for all of Kentucky in response to the contused heavy rain across the state.

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"While the rain has stopped, we are expecting significant flooding in certain areas of the city,” said Lansing Mayor Andy Schor.

The American Red Cross has opened shelters in parts of northern Indiana and Michigan to allow affected families to have a place to stay.

Seventeen students were rescued from a school bus after it drove off the road into floodwaters in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Wednesday, the AP said. No injuries were reported.

Mandatory evacuations were issued on Wednesday for portions of Marseilles, Illinois, located along the banks of the Illinois River near 80 miles southwest of Chicago. However, officials announced Thursday that mandatory evacuations were canceled, but voluntary evacuations would remain in place.

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