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53 dead in massive winter storm; more flooding expected

By Amy R. Connolly
A volunteer throws a sandbag as others build a wall Tuesday to prevent flooding from the River Des Peres in St. Louis. Statewide, 13 people have died due to flooding that may equal or surpass the so-called Great Flood of 1993. More than 250 roads have been closed due to water over the roadways. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
A volunteer throws a sandbag as others build a wall Tuesday to prevent flooding from the River Des Peres in St. Louis. Statewide, 13 people have died due to flooding that may equal or surpass the so-called Great Flood of 1993. More than 250 roads have been closed due to water over the roadways. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Up to 18 people are dead in Missouri and Illinois from flooding as raging waters threaten to breach up to a dozen federal levees along the Mississippi River.

The massive winter storm that continues to march across the United States is to blame for killing at least 53 people since last week, when it brought tornadoes and blizzards to Texas. Although the rain has stopped, a 600-mile stretch of Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma continues under a flood warning. In Missouri, hardest hit by the storm, 13 people have died, most after driving their vehicles through floodwaters. Another five people died in Illinois.

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The National Weather Service in St. Louis said record flooding is expected in Missouri throughout the week. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is watching more than a dozen levees at risk for bursting.

"Although the storm system that produced this rainfall has left the region, major flooding is expected to continue into early January on some rivers," the National Weather Service said.

Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon warned residents parts of the state might see "historic" and "dangerous" flooding. He activated the Missouri National Guard, two days after declaring a state of emergency.

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In Illinois, some Menard Correctional Center inmates were transferred to nearby facilities after lower-lying cells and basements were flooded.

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