Flooding | St. Louis Public Radio

Flooding

Eureka residents fill sandbags outside Eureka High School in April in preparation for the Meramec River's rising waters. Flooding this spring caused about $1.5 million in damage to the school, according to the district.
Provided | Rockwood School District

St. Louis County is one of the highest-risk counties in the United States for flooding in schools, according to a Pew Charitable Trust report released Tuesday.

The 100 most at-risk counties identified in the report have 6,444 schools educating nearly 4 million students. Three of those are in St. Louis County, and one of them, Eureka High School, has flooded twice in as many years.

A view of the Mississippi River from Dubuque, IA, where government agencies, environmentalists, engineers and residents gathered to discuss flood risks along the upper Mississippi River.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Communities along the upper Mississippi River have seen a major uptick in heavy rains and flooding in the last decade.

Residents, environmentalists, engineers and government agencies agree that they need a coordinated strategy to manage flooding. That could be particularly important in coming years, as scientists predict that climate change will likely bring more heavy rain to the region.

The Sny Island Levee System in Illinois is one of 10 levee systems that have exceeded their authorized heights, according to a survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island District this year.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Guyton has lived by the Mississippi River her entire life. She and her husband farm in Annada, a small town on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. She knows that growing crops on the floodplain comes with some risks.

The Guytons’ farm, about 65 miles north of St. Louis, endured major floods along the Mississippi in 1993 and 2008. But since 2008, she’s noticed more flood events.

Eureka resident Sharon Wasson sits in her basement, which still hasn't been completely put back together after the severe flooding that occurred in May.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Two months ago, retired physical education teacher and Eureka resident Sharon Wasson spent four days trying to keep sewer water from entering her basement. An armada of blower fans covered the floor. Members of Eureka High School’s football and wrestling teams packed the place, pumping water out of Wasson’s house.

Two months later, the basement where she once spent most of her time is still a work in progress. Having dealt with the major flooding in May and in December 2015, Wasson is conflicted about staying in Eureka.

Kaci Dalton, 16, helps residents fill sandbags on Starling Airport Road in Arnold. “My other house used to flood so I know how it feels,” she said. “So I’m just trying to help out.”
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-area residents who are recovering from flooding can get help with cleaning up, filing insurance claims and finding counseling all in one place in the coming days.

Local, state and federal disaster specialists still are assessing the size and scope of damage throughout Missouri from the flooding and storms. Gov. Eric Greitens said Wednesday it's part of the state's application seeking a federal disaster declaration.

Crews remove hundreds of sandbags Sunday morning at the Steak 'n Shake in Valley Park. The city's mayor tells St. Louis Public Radio the sand wall at the fastfood restaurant near I-44 and Route 141 did not hold during last week's flood.
Wayne Pratt| St. Louis Public Radio

"I'm just happy the residents are back in their homes."

That is how Valley Park Mayor Mike Pennise summed up several days of battling the rising Meramec River, west of St. Louis. He issued a mandatory evacuation order for part of the city of roughly 7,000 last week as residents and emergency officials prepared for a second round of major flooding in roughly a year and a half.

Ryan LaPlant, 13, helps pile sandbags near his grandparents’ house in Arnold. May 2017
Carolina Hidalgo / St Louis Public Radio

This week, residents of the St. Louis metropolitan area have been doused with several waves of heavy rainfall, resulting in flooding across the region.

South of St. Louis, Arnold, Fenton, Eureka and Pacific have been particularly hard hit. Similar areas were flooded in December of 2015.

While the Meramec River, which was responsibile for the flooding in that area has crested and is receding, the Missouri River at St. Charles is cresting today and the Mississippi River from Alton down will be cresting from today through tomorrow. 

Ongoing rain and the threat of more flooding kept downtown Eureka business owners from removing piles of sandbags Thursday morning, as planned. (May 4, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sharon Wasson, a Eureka resident and retired high school physical education teacher, treats her basement as her sanctuary. It’s where her office is, where she watches the news and where she decompresses after a long day.

But severe flooding this week along the lower Meramec River has transformed her basement into a source of stress. 

Waters continue to rise around I-55 near Butler Hill on Wednesday morning. May 2017
Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

Updated May 4 at 7 p.m. with information about West Alton — Officials with the Rivers Pointe Fire Protection District are urging residents east of Highway 67 in West Alton who plan to evacuate, particularly those who are elderly or have a disability, to do so immediately. Those planning to ride out the flooding, officials said in a Facebook post, should secure provisions.

Arnold residents pile sandbags over a manhole to try to prevent sewage from mixing with floodwater. May 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A second round of heavy rain rolled through the already soaked and flooded St. Louis metro area Wednesday, leading to longer school closures and heightened worries among affected residents.

Up to 4 inches of rain is expected through Thursday evening, further frustrating travelers who rely on two major interstates in the area. Even so, rivers in the area are forecast to crest Wednesday.

The Fenton Water Treatment Plant was knocked offline due to historic flooding.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The Meramec River is expected to crest at 40 feet on Wednesday, posing a threat to low-lying communities, including Valley Park, Eureka, Fenton and Kirkwood. 

As water levels rise along the same communities that were badly impacted by flooding in early 2016, some local environmentalists say that levees are responsible for the severe floods residents in the St. Louis area have experienced in recent years.

Pallets full of sandbags that stayed dry during the floods sit in the parking lot of City Hall in Valley Park in January 2016.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated May 1 with new road closure information - Rising rivers in the St. Louis area that are already threatening homes and businesses will also cause major traffic headaches for at least the rest of this week.

More than 70 roads have been closed in the area due to engorged rivers and streams. (See a complete list here.) Officials say more will be added to the list this week. That includes Interstate 44, which will close in both directions at Route 141 Monday night. Missouri Department of Transportation engineer  Tom Blair says it will mark the third spot on the interstate to close since the heavy rains hit the state this past weekend.

Residents of Pacific looked out at their flooded-out town in early January.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Walter Wolfner was not prepared for the impact that last year's heavy rains would have on his business, the Riverside Golf Club in Fenton. 

"The velocity of the water was so great that it picked up sand from the Meramec River and deposited it on the golf course," Wolfner said "I mean, we'd never seen things like that before." 

While he managed to clear off all the debris from the golf course, which is adjacent to the river, it took three months to rebuild the clubhouse, which had to be completely gutted and rewired. 

The state of Missouri estimated that more than 7,000 structures were damaged by last winter's heavy rains. Like Wolfner, cities and many residents along the Meramec, Missouri and Mississippi rivers have been trying to recover and rebuild. 

Mississippi River, dredging, Eads
Rachel Heidenry | 2008 file photo

A $9 billion bill in Congress that could improve waterway navigation and water systems in Missouri is a step closer to being signed into law.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 399-25 to approve the Water Resources Development Act — in a rare show of bipartisan support. The Senate passed its version of the bill earlier last month. 

The Water Resources Development Act, authorized every two years, gives the green light to the Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation, water quality and work on other water projects.

The Fenton Water Treatment Plant was knocked offline due to historic flooding.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The Valley Park levee in St. Louis County may have been built too high, according to new findings from a private engineering firm hired by a conservation group.

The report by Pickett, Ray and Silver Inc. commissioned by the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, concluded that four locations along the levee exceeded the maximum height allowed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is 435 feet above sea level. One spot surpassed the standard by 8 feet.

Map of major watersheds in the St. Louis area.
Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District

The "cloud burst" that drenched a mid-section of St. Louis County with nearly four inches of rain early Monday morning is only part of why local streams and creeks swelled their banks, flooding businesses and several busy streets.

Forecasters called it a 25-year rain event, but similar flooding took place just eight months ago and to many county residents it's also reminiscent of flooding in 2008.

Residents of Pacific looked out at their flooded-out town in early January.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

In the months after floods swept through his hometown of Fenton  just after Christmas, Scott Bayliff and 16 crisis counselors from the mental health center Places for People were on the ground to help.

“We ask them how they’re doing, assess them for the signs of trauma, signs of depression, worsening sleep, anxiety, increased substance use,” Bayliff said. “We’re here to listen. We knew a lot of people were just overwhelmed, and they just needed someone.”

Devin Lawson of south St. Louis County works to dry out the boilers in the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific Railroad Association's 12-inch gauge steam engines.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The volunteer crew at the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific Railroad Association in far west St. Louis County is back on track after it was almost derailed by severe floods along the Meramec River late last year.

The ridable miniature railroad in Glencoe opens for the season this Sunday, the first time it will run for the public since the flooding. 

Crews contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency pick up flood debris in Pacific, Mo. in January 2016.
FEMA | provided

Monday is the last day Missourians affected by the mid-winter floods can apply for federal aid.

According to Federal Emergency Management Administration spokesperson, John Mills, FEMA teams have canvassed all the neighborhoods known to have been impacted by the floods and handed out application instructions in English and Spanish.

Lisa Hickman, a 2-1-1 Call Center Supervisor, works for the United Way of Greater St. Louis.
provided by United Way

Here are some numbers you wouldn’t have been able to find two years ago.

Last week, 3,428 people from the St. Louis Metro Area called the United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline, asking for help. One in four requested financial assistance to pay a utility bill. Nearly 500 callers asked for rent assistance, a bed in an emergency shelter, or another housing request. Another 114 needed help filing their taxes.

Crews contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency pick up flood debris in Pacific, Mo. in January 2016.
FEMA | provided

If you’re a Missouri resident that still has water-logged furniture or other flood-damaged debris in your home, you have one week left to take advantage of curbside pickup.

The debris removal program launched by President Barack Obama’s emergency declaration is ending Monday, Feb. 15.

Mike Weber puts down new flooring in front of the bar at the Pacific Brew Haus on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. The bar and restaurant, which occupies the first floor of the historic McHugh-Dailey building, was damaged by flooding in late December.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If you rumble up to the top of Blackburn Park, you’ll get a picturesque view of the city of Pacific. You’ll see rows of tidy houses and retail shops settled beside gently rolling hills. At the center of it all is a sturdy brick structure shipped to the 7,000-person city at the conclusion of the 1904 World’s Fair: the McHugh-Dailey Building.

Sandy Evans helps her parents clear out the basement of the house she grew up in on Oak Court in Arnold on Monday afternoon. Floodwater from the Meramec River damaged the basement, which housed a spare bedroom and a bathroom.
file photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 10:45 a.m., Jan. 24 with information from FEMA—Hundreds of thousands of federal dollars are available to Missourians whose homes were damaged in flooding between Dec. 23 and Jan. 9, now that President Barrack Obama has declared 33 counties a major disaster area.

But figuring out whether you qualify for aid can be confusing. So we enlisted the help of Jono Anzalone, who oversees American Red Cross disaster relief for Missouri, to create a FAQ for FEMA applications.

Residents of Pacific looked out at their flooded-out town in early January.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Many St. Louis-area residents were still enjoying a long weekend and the end of the Christmas holiday when the flood warnings first went out on Dec. 26. 

Over the next days, the Mississippi, Missouri and Meramec rivers rose to dangerous heights at unprecedented speed in some areas. The water spilled over levees, put water treatment plants out of service, and swamped thousands of homes and businesses in riverside communities.

Paul Jackson, 83, says he's been sleeping in his car since the flood swept through his trailer in Arnold, Mo.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

With no money to spare and little idea where to go, Paul Jackson of Arnold has been sleeping in his car since flood waters swept through his home at the end of December.

“My trailer is demolished and my landlady is trying to fix it up,” said Jackson, an 83-year-old veteran of the Vietnam and Korean wars. “I’ve got a 106-year-old mother in a house of 12, and I can’t live with them because they’re all filled up.”

Dave Schatz
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On this week’s edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome state Sen. Dave Schatz to the program for the first time.

Schatz is a Republican hailing from rural Franklin County. The Sullivan native’s state Senate district encompasses western St. Louis County and all of Franklin County.

Pallets full of sandbags that stayed dry during the floods sit in the parking lot of City Hall in Valley Park in January 2016.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The record floods that swept through the St. Louis region just after Christmas claimed at least two dozen lives in Missouri and Illinois. In four counties near St. Louis, the water damaged 7,100 homes, businesses and public buildings, according to early estimates. As communities clean up and rebuild, attention is turning to how these disasters can be prevented. But the answers are never simple.

The Fenton Water Treatment Plant was knocked offline due to historic flooding.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Warnings to avoid contact with flood water. An executive order temporarily waiving Missouri Department of Natural Resources regulations. Periodic updates on the millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into the Meramec River due to shuttered wastewater treatment plants.

St. Louis Public Radio referenced these announcements as they happened in the course of reporting on the human and economic toll wrought by the record-high waters. But what impact, if any, do those warnings and waivers have on the environment?

National Guard members stand at a news conference to discuss "Operation Recovery" at the Jefferson Barracks Division in St. Louis.
Caleb Codding for St. Louis Public Radio

Floodwaters in the St. Louis region have receded, leaving behind an estimated 500,000 tons of debris. Now what?

At a news conference Wednesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon outlined “Operation Recovery," a cleanup effort that will be coordinated by the National Guard, with Lt. Col. Grace Link, a civil engineer, in charge. Contracted trucks will help clear debris in flood-damaged areas throughout the St. Louis region, Nixon said.

Southbound lanes of US 67 across the Clark Bridge are expected to remain closed for at least the first part of the work week.
Flickr | Jon K.

Updated Monday, Jan. 4 at 3:00  p.m. with information about sewer plants

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District says one of its flood-damaged water treatment plants should be fully functional by next week.

The Grand Glaize plant in Valley Park went offline Christmas Eve after the Meramec River breached a sandbag levee MSD built around the facility. The utility said Monday that the plant was pumping water again, and partial wastewater treatment would resume by the end of this week. The plant is expected to be back at full capacity next week.

 The utility says it does not know when it will be able to return a second wastewater treatment plant in Fenton to service. That means six million gallons of untreated sewage will continue to flow into the Meramec. The facility was under six feet of water.

Pages