The mighty Mississippi has broken lose in Memphis, Tenn., where water levels reached 14.59 meters May 10, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. That level is just short of the record of 14.84 meters set in 1937.

These true-color images, captured by the Thematic Mapper on the Landsat 5 satellite, compare the flooded river basin between West Memphis on the Arkansas side of the river and Memphis on May 10 [top] with pre-flood conditions in the same area April 21 [bottom]. Engorged by heavy spring rains, the river has overwhelmed both its east and west banks; a large industrial park northwest of Treasure Island is seen awash in muddy water.

High water levels will likely persist for several days, and President Obama has declared the flood-stricken areas of Tennessee a federal disaster zone. It may be two weeks before the main river channel can once again take in water from the tributaries that normally feed into it—instead of flooding them, too, with its own overflow. By the end of the month, the flood crest is predicted to make its way downstream toward New Orleans, according to the National Weather Service.

—Nina Bai