Rising floodwater stretching from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico are driving many to higher ground - and that includes all creatures great and small, fanged, tusked and hoofed.
Coyotes, deer and feral pigs are entering Greenville, Miss., in a steady stream from swamped islands, according to a report by the Associated Press. In Tennessee, where gentle waves splash at the base of Beale Street, emergency-management officials are warning the populace about wildlife intruders that are concentrating on dry ground. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is encouraging people to "observe the animals from a safe distance," especially cottonmouth water moccasins, which are in their mating season and thus "more aggressive."
In southern Illinois, biologists are monitoring a "mass exodus of critters" from the lowlands, according to The Southern:"The levees are crawling with wildlife," said Rich Whitton, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist. "It's kind of a rally point for all wildlife to be on the levees. Raccoons, opossums, woodchucks and badgers are all up on the levees."The first place is up on the levee, and then they're going to start moving inland. They could potentially overburden an area and become a public nuisance."
How bad is the flooding? Melting snow and rain are pumping up the water levels from Canada to the Dakotas down along the Mississippi River states. Nearly 200 locations in the U.S. are flooded, 44 with "major flooding," according to river gauges. Thousands of folks have been evacuated in Kentucky, and today many homeowners in Memphis found notices on their door urging them to leave. Port officials in New Orleans are scurrying to dredge out all the sediment collecting in the river and clogging boat routes.
Although the Mississippi won't crest until Wednesday, high-water records dating from the 1930s have already been broken. The National Weather Service predicts that new flood records will be set in the coming week for Vicksburg and Natchez, Miss., Caruthersville, Mo., Baton Rouge, La. and a couple other cities.
To appreciate how widespread the flooding is, take a look at these false-color images of Cairo, Ill., from NASA's Terra satellite. The top shot is from April 29, 2010 while the bottom is from a few days ago, on April 28. Where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers join is just awash in flooding:
And here's where the flooding will likely progress in the next few days: