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Fox News Weather Center

Arkansas to Mississippi communities brace for dangerous river flooding

As Missouri residents continue to recover and clean up from deadly flooding, communities in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi are bracing for dangerous flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Mississippi River floodwaters have receded around the St. Louis area, and communities that were evacuated have returned to deal with the aftermath of flood damage.

Footage and commentary of the 2015-16 middle Mississippi River Valley flooding

"Waters are receding but cleanup continues in many Missouri communities," Gov. Jay Nixon said on Twitter on Monday, Jan. 4, adding that the state is coordinating with federal and local officials to speed recovery.

Now, floodwaters are moving downstream along the Mississippi River, with major flooding expected for some locations in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.

The Mississippi River will swell to peak levels in Tennessee and northern Arkansas as the week draws to a close.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, the Mississippi River is still many days away from cresting even farther south for cities and towns in southern Arkansas, central Mississippi and Louisiana.

"While flooding along the Mississippi River in Tennessee and northern Arkansas has been less severe than farther north, major flooding is likely at most points from Arkansas City, Arkansas, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, through the middle of January," Sosnowski said.

"This includes the communities of Greenville, Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi."

Minor to moderate flooding is possible is possible south of Baton Rouge to New Orleans during the second half of January.

"Upriver from Baton Rouge, the Morganza floodway control structure could be operated if river levels reach 57 feet at the structure," the Army Corps of Engineers said in a press release on Monday. If Mississippi River water flow reaches current projected level, then the Corps may operate the Bonnet Carré Spillway to regulate the amount of water flowing through the Greater New Orleans area by diverting water into Lake Pontchartrain.

People are reminded never to attempt to drive across flooded roadways. A foot or two of water can be enough to carry your vehicle into deep water or the road may have been compromised beneath.

The flooding was initiated by record rainfall in some areas during December 2015, most of which occurred just after Christmas.

The torrential rainfall pushed levels on parts of the Mississippi and some of its tributaries to record high levels.

Very large rivers in nearly flat terrain, such as the Mississippi and its nearby tributaries, take a very long time to rise then fall, following excessive rainfall.

Small streams in steep terrain can rise and fall in a matter of minutes or hours, while large rivers can take days or weeks for the flooding to cycle through.

River flooding can occur in an area even where little or no rain has fallen. In the case of the flooding initiated just after Christmas, the heaviest rain fell in a swath from northeastern Oklahoma to central Illinois, where as much as a foot of rain fell in less than three days.

More rain will fall on flooded areas of the Mississippi Valley and in areas where the river is still rising.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski, "Through Saturday, a few more rounds of rain can occur, amounting to an additional 0.50-1.50 inches across parts of Arkansas, western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and southeastern Missouri."

There could be enough rain to cause flooding in poor drainage areas and quick rises on small streams in areas where heavy rain fell with the late December storm.

"While it is possible the rain will slow the recession of the rivers, in some cases, not enough rain will fall to have significant impact on river levels," Sosnowski said.

Following the storm on Friday into Saturday, another extended period of dry weather is in store for the middle and lower Mississippi River Valley.

However, a blast of cold air may hinder cleanup operations and is likely to be significant enough to cause shallow standing water and damp areas to freeze from northern Louisiana and central Mississippi northward to Missouri and Illinois.

Content contributed by AccuWeather Meteorologists Alex Sosnowski and Meghan Mussoline.