'Incredible' Winter Flooding Along Mississippi River Could Be Historic

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'Incredible' Winter Flooding Along Mississippi River Could Be Historic

"Nobody that is living has ever seen anything like this."

"December 2015 Flood Fight" (Photo: TeamSaintLouis/flickr/cc)

As 2015, on track to be the warmest  year on record, draws to a close, flooding in the U.S. Midwest is approaching record levels and has already claimed the lives of over 20 people.

The Mississippi River and its tributaries are raging after several days of heavy rain, forcing evacuations in several areas as well as closures of hundreds of roads and highways. "Nearly two dozen federal levees in Missouri and Illinois" are now threatened, the Associated Press reports.

"What is so incredible about this week's flooding," Angela Fritz writes Wednesday at the Washington Post, "is not only the magnitude, but the timing."

As meteorologist Jeff Masters explains: "Never before has water this high been observed in winter along the levee system of the river."

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AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski writes:

Flooding on the middle portion of the Mississippi River and its tributaries may reach levels not seen during the winter months since records began during the middle 1800s.

Water levels could rival the mark set during the summer of 1993 and spring of 1995 and 2011 in some cases. Chester and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as well as Thebes, Illinois, could experience record high Mississippi River levels.

Rick Davis, the emergency management director in Pleasant Hope, Mo., said: "Nobody that is living has ever seen anything like this."

The Midwest, which also just saw a series of tornadoes, is not alone in battle extreme weather.

Flooding is also affecting South America. BBC News reports: "Vast areas in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil are being hit by the worst flooding in 50 years, forcing the evacuation of more than 150,000 people." Greenpeace Argentina says it's a result of not only El Niño but widespread deforestation.

The head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction addressed the unusual weather events this week and issued a statement about the urgency of preparations as climate change continues to bring about more havoc.

"Prevention measures including upgrading early warning systems to deal with the new climate variability, revising building codes to ensure more resilience of critical infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, and roads, and more investment in flood defenses are critical to protect more people against disaster impacts," said Margareta Wahlström.

"We have no time to lose as weather-related disasters continue to increase, affecting millions of people."

Some Twitter users are using the hashtag #flood2015 to capture images of local devastation:

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