St. Louis Public Radio News
6:46 am
Mon September 15, 2008

Weekend rain has utility crews on high alert

St. Louis, MO – Utility agencies say that flooding in the St. Louis Metro region is worse now than it was during the June flood.

Service teams are scrambling to fix damage caused by high winds, heavy rains and overburdened drainage systems. Flash flooding occurred system-wide Sunday, dropping over five inches of rain in less than 24 hours.

"We're talking about pouring almost a bathtub full of water into a coffee cup, it's just not going to work," says Lance LeComb, spokesman for the Metropolitan Sewer District.

LeComb says flooding normally occurs on the periphery, at the boundaries of the region's three main rivers: the Mississippi, Missouri and Meramec.

"This is almost the reverse, it's inland flooding. And all this billions of gallons of water was dumped inside of our service area instead of at the boundaries and it's now flowing out," says LeComb.

MSD has activated all of its service crews and focused its efforts on human safety concerns, such as standing water and flooded basements.

Flood crests on the Mississippi River at St. Louis are predicted to be two feet higher than during last June's flooding.

The National Weather Service is predicting the river will rise to 40 feet on Thursday, or ten feet above flood stage.

Todd Waelterman, Director of the St. Louis City Streets Department says crews have started to close and reinforce downtown flood gates.

"Today it's all-out flood gates, our entire operation is in the process of closing 20 gates today (Monday), just keeping up with the water as it's rising," says Waelterman.

At 40 feet, water will be over Lenore K. Sullivan Boulevard and nearly halfway up the steps of the Gateway Arch.

Waelterman says the good news is that there shouldn't be any more rain this week, so the river levels will drop quickly.