LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- High water pouring down the White River could cause historic flooding in cities along its path in eastern Arkansas, forecasters warned Sunday.
The river, one of many out of its banks across wide areas of the Midwest, could top levels recorded in a devastating flood 25 years ago, National Weather Service meteorologist John Robinson warned.
"There will be water going into areas where people have not seen it before, and may not be expecting to see high water," Robinson wrote in an e-mail to reporters Sunday.
A tributary of the White River, the Black River, ruptured a levee in two places Saturday near Pocahontas, said Renee Preslar, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. That stream has been bloated by water pouring downstream from hard-hit southeastern Missouri.
Preslar said the levee breaks allowed flooding in outlying areas but she did not have details on what might have been damaged.
The Army Corps of Engineers worked through the night to plug the breaks with sandbags, and that work appeared to be holding as of Sunday afternoon, Preslar said.
"Right now, it's kind of a wait-and-see game," she said.
Arkansas emergency management officials have already estimated damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure at $2 million. Forecasts show it likely will be the middle of this week before rivers statewide see significant drops.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has declared 35 counties disaster areas.
Last week's torrential rainstorms also caused flooding in parts of Ohio and southern Illinois and in wide areas of Missouri.
At least 17 deaths have been linked to flooding, wet roads and other weather effects over the past week, and one person is missing in Arkansas. Thousands of Missouri residents have had fled to Red Cross shelters or to the homes of friends or relatives.
In southern Missouri, water poured through several breaches in levees and led authorities to evacuate towns west of Cape Girardeau. At least 200 homes and 13 businesses had been evacuated in Cape Girardeau County, said emergency management director Dick Knaup. Some 70 Missouri counties reported flooding last week.
West of St. Louis, the Meramec River crested Saturday at Valley Park, Mo., at 37.8 feet, well above the flood stage of 16 feet but still below the record of 39.7 feet, the weather service said. That was several feet below the top of a levee at Valley Park that was completed in 2005.
Much of the flooding in Illinois was in sparsely populated areas, but several dozen people were evacuated from their homes in Murphysboro on Saturday, said Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Rivers have mostly begun receding in Ohio.