New Aerial Photographs Show Midwest Flooding Devastation

The unusual winter flooding, which crested as high as 47 feet, killed at least 31 people and caused billions of dollars in damage across several states.

A residential park area is seen submerged by flood water from the Meremac River on December 31, 2015, in Eureka, Missouri. The St. Louis region experienced record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meremac Rivers after days of record rainfall. Credit: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

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New aerial photography by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released Monday are providing a glimpse of the extent and severity of last week’s devastating flooding along hundreds of miles of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Along those rivers, thousands of Americans rang in the New Year with their homes and businesses underwater after three days of unusual winter rainstorms sent the rivers over their banks.

The flooding, which crested as high as 47 feet in some spots, killed at least 31 people and caused billions of dollars in damage across several states. And its devastation continues as the water moves slowly downstream, inundating new towns and cities on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Part of what makes the recent Midwest flooding so unusual is the timing. The Mississippi River Valley typically gets most of its rain during the spring and summer when warm, moisture-rich air fuels wet weather. But this year’s El Nino, in combination with climate change, increased fall temperatures and precipitation levels. So when 10 inches of rain fell in late December, the region’s soils were already saturated and the water had nowhere to go but downstream.

NOAA began collecting the new aerial photographs January 2, focused in the area just north and south of St. Louis. The imagery will help federal, state and local officials understand the scope of the damage done by the floodwaters and manage their emergency response.

(Click images to enlarge.)

Riverside homes, businesses and roads in Grafton, Illinois, a town of 674 people in Jersey Country, remained submerged days after heavy rain in late December flooded the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Floodwaters across Jersey County, Illinois measured nearly 12 feet above flood stage after 10 inches of rain fell in three days.

Dozens of houses are seen here underwater in West Alton, Missouri, a town of 522 people. The community lies at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

Submerged cropland is seen here near Menfro, Missouri, an unincorporated community with a long history of catastrophic flooding. The image shows how NOAA overlaid hundreds of individual aerial images to create a detailed, bird’s-eye view of the recent floods, similar to fitting pieces of a puzzle together.

The entire town of Allenville, Missouri (seen here), population 116, was swamped when what was once a small diversion canal, known as the Castor River Diversion Canal, flooded.

All the roads in and out of Allenville, Missouri disappeared under high water following the the New Year flooding, turning the tiny town into an island. Most residents stayed near their homes, using boats to get around.

Located between two bends in the Mississippi River, the small farming community of Willard, Illinois was almost entirely inundated with water following the late December rains.