Editor’s note: Updated with additional photos at 7:15 p.m. EST.

The Midwest continues to be pounded by weather that has resulted in millions of residents being on “flood watch” as the Missouri, Meramec and Mississippi Rivers reach record levels, taxing the levees designed to protect residents of Missouri and Illinois.

While the rain has stopped in many areas, the danger from the resulting flooding is just beginning.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency, allowing him to activate the National Guard and other resources to protect the state’s residents. Dozens of counties face a severe threat. “We’re talking more than 10 vertical feet of moving water,” Nixon said at a press conference.

Officials predict that the impact could surpass the damage caused by the Great Flood of 1993 that devastated St. Louis and much of the Midwest, causing $15 billion in damage and killing 50 people. Hundreds of levees failed, resulting in thousands of residents evacuating a wide area along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. It has been called the “largest and most significant flood event” to occur in the U.S.

The Mississippi River has already crested 15 feet above flood stage, and it is expected to rise another 8 feet within the next 24 hours. Officials are monitoring 19 levees along the Mississippi River.

Here is how the current flood levels compare to those of the Great Flood:

St. Louis, Mo.

Record crest in 1993: 49.6 feet.

Thursday forecast: 43.1 feet.

Chester, Ill.

Record crest in 1993: 49.7 feet.

Friday forecast: 49.7 feet.

Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Record crest in 1993: 48.5 feet.

Saturday forecast: 48.5 feet.

Missouri flooding

A holiday wreath hangs from a light post surrounded by floodwater from the Bourbeuse River, Tuesday, Dec. 29, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

Severe weather has killed an estimated 53 people since last week, mainly because of tornadoes, but a number of individuals were killed when driving their vehicles on flooded roads, especially at night said Nixon. Residents are being told to stay off of water-covered streets because the rushing water could carry them off without any notice.

Related: Christmas storms, tornadoes kill at least 43

Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist at the Weather Channel, said that if a levee gave way, the flood waters would impact anything in their path and could flow from St. Louis down to New Orleans.

Volunteers have been filling sandbags in an effort to reinforce the levees along rivers and protect the towns on the other side.

In some areas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says there have already been voluntary evacuations. The Missouri towns of West Alton (pop. 522) and Allenville (pop. 116) have seen voluntary evactuations, while residents in levee-protected areas at the lower end of Valley Park (pop. 7,000) have manadatory evacuations in place. In Illinois, 400 residents of Madison County were evacuated because of flooding. FEMA has identified four areas that are at major flood stage to watch:

  • Mid-Mississippi River (near-record flooding).
  • Meramec River (near-record flooding).
  • Arkansas River to confluence with Missouri River.
  • Lower Mississippi River (major flooding is expected in early to mid-January).

The Meramec River near Arnold, Mo., is forecast to peak at 46.1 feet. The record is 45.3 feet. The Mississippi River’s Chester Gauge tied its record at 49.7 feet and the water is beginning to top the levees. FEMA says approximately 41 housing units could be impacted. The Cape Girardeau Gauge, also on the Mississippi, has peaked at its record level — 48.5 feet and several homes and structures have been flooded or cut off because of backwater flooding.

Officials will continue to monitor rivers for flooding along the Mississippi and other tributaries.

Related: How insurance agents can counsel clients after a flood

Following are some images of the flooding experienced in many areas:

Sandbagging the levees

Volunteers help fill sandbags Tuesday, Dec. 29, in St. Louis. (Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

Flooding barricade

Police block a road flooded by the Bourbeuse River Tuesday, Dec. 29, in Union, Mo. (Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

business flooded

Floodwater from the Bourbeuse River surrounds businesses Tuesday, Dec. 29, in Union, Mo. Flooding across Missouri has forced the closure of hundreds of roads and threatened homes. (Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

 In this aerial photo, the swollen Mississippi River flows past the Gateway Arch Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in St. Louis.

In this aerial photo, the swollen Mississippi River flows past the Gateway Arch Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photo, equipment is surrounded by floodwater Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Valley Park, Mo. A rare winter flood threatened nearly two dozen federal levees in Missouri and Illinois on Wednesday as rivers rose, prompting evacuations in several places. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) 

In this aerial photo, flood water surrounds businesses and covers Interstate 44, Wednesday, Dec 30, 2015, in Valley Park, Mo.

In this aerial photo, flood water surrounds businesses and covers Interstate 44, Wednesday, Dec 30, 2015, in Valley Park, Mo.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photo, barges are seen in the swollen Mississippi River Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in St. Louis.

In this aerial photo, barges are seen in the swollen Mississippi River Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in St. Louis.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photo, floodwater surrounds homes and businesses, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Pacific, Mo.

In this aerial photo, floodwater surrounds homes and businesses, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Pacific, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photo, the swollen Mississippi River flows past the Gateway Arch Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in St. Louis.

In this aerial photo, the swollen Mississippi River flows past the Gateway Arch Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in St. Louis.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photo, rescue personnel wait on a flooded road Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in West Alton, Mo.

In this aerial photo, rescue personnel wait on a flooded road Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in West Alton, Mo.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photo, Interstate 44 is covered by floodwater, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Valley Park, Mo.

In this aerial photo, Interstate 44 is covered by floodwater, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Valley Park, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photo, people stand on a flooded street Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Eureka, Mo.

In this aerial photo, people stand on a flooded street Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Eureka, Mo.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photo, homes are surrounded by floodwater Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Pacific, Mo.

In this aerial photo, homes are surrounded by floodwater Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Pacific, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Related: Capturing proof of damage after a storm

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for more updates.