The Mississippi River Is About to Have a Record Flood Completely Out of Season

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Volunteers stack sandbags on the banks of the River Des Peres on December 29, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are bracing for record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meramec Rivers after days of record rainfall. Michael B. Thomas/Getty

The Mississippi River is flooding in a big way right now, at the wrong time of year, and is forecasted to match or break 22-year-old crest records over the next few days. Meteorologists are calling it “insane.”

Over the next three to four days, the Mississippi is predicted to reach a crest height of 49.7 feet at Chester, Illinois, one of several locations where the National Weather Service records data about the river. As of Tuesday afternoon, the river has already risen to 40.8 feet. According to Taylor Trogdon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Memphis, that is an “absolutely remarkable” forecast.

The “great flood of 1993,” as it has come to be known, was “one of the most significant and damaging natural disasters ever to hit the United States,” according to a National Weather Service hydrologist, writing in 1996. “Damages totaled $15 billion, 50 people died, hundreds of levees failed, and thousands of people were evacuated, some for months.”

While the worst is still yet to come, the flooding in places has already become severe. According to The Washington Post, the flood water in parts of eastern Oklahoma has already risen above the height of houses. Images are rolling in on Twitter of cars inundated by the growing flood.

“This is insane. You don't expect peak Mississippi River flooding in early winter,” wrote Eric Fischer, CBS Boston’s chief meteorologist.

The Coast Guard closed part of the Upper Mississippi River to ship traffic, and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon activated the state's National Guard on Tuesday, to “provide security in evacuated areas and direct traffic from road closures,” according to local station KFVS12.

The Mississippi isn’t the only river flooding. A series of major storms over the weekend have sent torrents of rain down over the central United States, pushing 400 rivers to flood across the region, the Post reports. Of these, 30 were in “major flood stage,” which the National Weather Service defines as “extensive inundation of structures and roads” requiring “significant evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations.”