- Associated Press - Sunday, December 27, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri’s governor has declared a state of emergency because of widespread flooding that has led to at least eight fatalities.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings Sunday for several sections of Missouri, where three to six inches of rain fell during the weekend, and up to four inches more of rain was expected through Monday.

Gov. Jay Nixon’s office said Sunday that weekend flooding has led to eight deaths, dozens of water rescues and evacuations. More flooding is expected while river levels continue rising around the state.

“Widespread flooding and continued rainfall are causing very dangerous conditions across much of central and southern Missouri,” Nixon said in an emailed release. “Multiple fatalities due to flash flooding have already been reported, and I urge Missourians in flood-affected areas to stay alert, avoid travel if possible and never drive into a flooded roadway.”

He said the state Emergency Operations Plan has been activated, allowing state agencies to coordinate with local authorities to provide emergency services.

Several roadways across the state were closed Sunday afternoon, including eastbound and westbound sections of Interstate 70 in St. Charles County near St. Louis, where flooding from the Dardenne Creek came across the roadway and had motorists backed up for miles before its closure.

The Missouri Department of Transportation tweeted that all lanes were expected to remain closed for the Monday morning rush hour.

In south-central Missouri, six people died in two separate incidents overnight when vehicles were swept away after they were driven into flooded roadways, Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long said in an email Sunday. Two people were in one vehicle, and four people were in another. He said their identities were being withheld while relatives are notified, and crews were looking for a fifth person who may have been in the second vehicle.

In southwest Missouri, Chet Hunter, executive director of the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management, told The Springfield News-Leader that from midnight Saturday to early Sunday afternoon there were 104 water rescues, 198 traffic control issues and two fatalities in the county associated with the storm.

David Compton, emergency management director for Barry County in southwest Missouri, told The Joplin Globe that about three dozen people were evacuated overnight and that crews also had to rescue people from 29 vehicles, mostly in northern Barry County and southern Lawrence County.

“We had one gentleman who spent about two hours on top of his vehicle,” Compton said.

He said flooding in Cassville has caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.

“I think that number will grow. We’re very early in the process,” he said. “It’s still raining.”

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