Memphis, Tennessee (CNN) -- Bright skies over Memphis, Tennessee, belied a potential disaster Sunday as a surge of fast-moving water threatened the city and many other communities along the Mississippi River.
Days earlier, the crisis centered on Cairo, Illinois, as historically high water levels in the Mississippi and Ohio river systems prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to intentionally blow up levees and flood 130,000 acres in Missouri. Now "the most high risk population" is in Memphis, according to Corps of Engineers Col. Vernie Reichling, though the worst danger zone is expected to move further south in the days to come.
"This water that we're seeing coming by is moving 2 million cubic feet per second," said Reichling of the situation on Sunday outside Memphis. "To use an analogy, in one second that water would fill up a football field 44 feet deep."
Despite a lack of new rain, the water levels rose further around Memphis to 47.6 feet late Sunday afternoon, said National Weather Service spokesman Richard Okulski. On Tuesday morning, authorities expect it to finally crest outside the western Tennessee city at 48 feet -- just short of the 48.7-feet record set in 1937, when Reichling said more than 500 people died and 20 million acres flooded.
"It's a very powerful river. It looks like it's running very slowly, but it has a very strong current," said Bob Nations, director of preparedness in Shelby County, Tennessee. "We still don't know (exactly what) the river might do.
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