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Death toll rises to 20 as severe floods threaten Midwest

Widespread flooding in the South and Midwest has killed at least 20 people, while the winter storm continues to swell waterways along the Mississippi River to heights nearing the records of the disastrous flood of 1993.

Floodwaters in Missouri and Illinois have forced residents out of their homes and the closure of hundreds of roads and highways, as flood warnings remained in effect Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

On Sunday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon dispatched the National Guard to help first responders secure evacuated areas and direct traffic away from road closure sites, he said in a statement, adding that at least 13 deaths were connected to the historic flooding, mainly from people driving into flooded roadways.

Federal officials are monitoring 19 vulnerable levees in Illinois, although the Mississippi River has yet to crest, the AP reported. According to the National Weather Service, the river is projected to crest on Thursday near the second highest level on record, falling behind levels seen during the Great Flood of 1993.

The Post-Christmas storm system that brought tornadoes, snow, heavy rain and flooding across the South and Mideast has been blamed for more than 45 deaths.

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