(Reuters) - Heavy rain drenched the sodden U.S. Midwest on Thursday but will ease in coming days after high waters killed at least five people and closed part of the Mississippi River to traffic.
Many parts of the Midwest saw rainfall of 3 inches (8 cm) to 4 inches (10 cm) on Thursday while Charleston in eastern Illinois received 6 inches (15 cm), said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the federal Weather Prediction Center.
The heavy rainfall on Thursday evening moved into the East Coast, where some areas could see between 1 inch (3 cm) and 2 inches (5 cm) of precipitation, forecasters said.
This followed several days of drenching precipitation that caused flooding along rivers in the Midwest and Arkansas.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings and watches along waterways from eastern Texas north through Indiana and into northwestern Ohio. Dozens of river gauges showed major flooding, mostly in Missouri, according to the NWS.
A roughly 5-mile (8-km) stretch of the Mississippi River near St. Louis was closed on Tuesday because high water was keeping boats and barges from passing beneath the historic Eads Bridge, said Sean Haley, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman.
The stretch of the Mississippi was expected to remain closed through the weekend, he said.
Hundreds of people in places like Eureka, Missouri, and Pocahontas, Arkansas, have heeded evacuation orders this week after building walls of sandbags to protect their homes and businesses from the rising waters.
Many areas saw signs of recovery on Thursday.
In Valley Park, a community just west of St. Louis, the mayor in a statement said an evacuation order for his community would be lifted on Friday morning.
High water had closed about 250 roads in the state, including 20 miles (32 km) of Interstate 44 near St. Louis, the state transportation department said.
By Thursday afternoon, Missouri officials announced westbound lanes in that section of Interstate 44 were reopened.
At least five people have been killed in flooding in Missouri, the last two of them swept from their cars on Monday and Tuesday.
Schools throughout the Midwest canceled classes on Thursday. Amtrak suspended service in Missouri until at least Saturday, it said in a statement.
Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, and Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Lisa Shumaker