Midwest braces for more flooding as rain-swollen rivers rise

Missouri and Illinois were bracing for more flooding on Thursday as rain-swollen rivers, some at record heights, overflowed their banks, washing out hundreds of structures and leaving thousands of people displaced from their homes.

Days of downpours from a winter storm that spawned deadly tornadoes in Texas and significant snowfall in New England has pushed rivers in the U.S. Midwest to levels not seen in decades, the National Weather Service and local officials aid.

At least 24 people have died, mostly from driving into flooded areas in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and Oklahoma after storms dropped up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain, officials said.

Flooding has destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, and overflowing rivers could menace Southern states as the water moves downstream toward the Gulf of Mexico, the National Weather Service said.

"Floodwaters will move downstream over the next couple of weeks, with significant river flooding expected for the lower Mississippi into mid-January," the NWS said.

Periods of below-freezing air in coming days will cause some flooded areas in Missouri and Illinois to turn icy, adding to the clean-up challenges, the forecasting site AccuWeather reported.