Flooding

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.

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.

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.
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 has been knocked off line 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.

It wasn’t that long ago that South Central Avenue in Eureka was swamped by historic flooding. Businesses along the commercial thoroughfare had to fight off several feet of water, which several damaged some longtime establishments.

Volunteers clean-up Odell's Irish Pub and Ale House in Eureka, Mo. on Sat. Jan. 2, 2016. Owner Jerry O'Dell says he hopes to reopen in time for St. Patrick's Day.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

After a formal request from Gov. Jay Nixon Saturday morning, President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration for the state of Missouri.              

Nixon asked for the declaration to get federal help removing flood debris.

Mia Fernandez, 9, and her brother Mason, 6, help clean up inventory at an ACE Hardware in Eureka with their father, Danny.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Floodwaters are continuing to recede along the Meramec River, and emergency workers are taking stock of the damage. According to early estimates, as many as 1,000 structures had water damage in St. Louis County over the past few days. Personnel from the Department of Public Works, however, cautioned that the number will likely change.  

The flooding Meramec River is taking a toll in Pacific.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Update 11:10 a.m. Friday - According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, as of 10 a.m. Friday, "Both directions of Interstate 44 in St. Louis County are now open between mile marker 253 and 274. Interstate 55 at the St. Louis County and Jefferson County line opened earlier today. All interstates in Missouri are now open to traffic.

"In the St. Louis area, Route 21 and Route 30 remain closed at the Meramec River and Route 141 is still closed at I-44 and at Route 21."

Jodi Howard holds her daughter Brooklyn, 3, as they survey flood damage in Pacific.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The flooding Meramec River crested early Wednesday in Pacific — inundating houses, half of the historic downtown district and sweeping through a mobile home park. Residents evacuated to hotels, friends’ houses and a Red Cross shelter set up in a senior center. Much of the water remained the morning of New Year's Eve and isn’t expected to recede to normal levels until early Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

As Interstates 55 and 44 remain closed, area residents need alternate routes. Missouri drivers should check www.modot.org, and Illinois drivers should go to www.idot.illinois.gov/home/Comm/emergency-road-closures.

Volunteer opportunities are being coordinated through STLVolunteer.org

Check the Army Corps of Engineers website for river levels.

The historic Opera House of Pacific sits among dozens of other homes and business on the south side of the city flooded by the Meramec River. Longtime residents say this is the worst flooding they’ve ever seen.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 9:57 a.m.  - More than a dozen people have died as a result of historic flooding throughout Missouri. And the state isn’t out of the woods just yet.

In a briefing with local officials in Franklin County, Gov. Jay Nixon said that 14 people have died as a result of flooding. Most of the deaths occurred after people tried to drive through floodwater.

“If we could say anything over and over and over – it’s don’t drive into water,” Nixon said.

Family, friends and volunteers from St. Louis help Arnold, Mo. residents combat area flooding
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Patty Titus, 57, stood at the edge of the Meramec River in Arnold as it ran up the side of her house and poured into her basement. It’s the house she grew up in, and she’s lived there for more than 50 years. As Titus watched the water rise, she listed the family heirlooms she’s lost.

“All my parents stuff, dishes, furniture, lost my freezer, my refrigerator, things that can’t be replaced. A lot of memories and things,” she said.

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Grand Glaize facility
Screenshot | Google Maps

Updated on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 1:30 p.m. with information on more evacuations and road closures.

Gov. Jay Nixon activated the Missouri National Guard on Tuesday to help rain-weary communities deal with near-record flooding.

Nixon said in a statement that the guard would provide security in evacuated areas and direct traffic around closed roads. Forty roads remain closed due to flooding in the Missouri part of the St. Louis region, out of 225 statewide.

Water had already gathered along the curb of Olive Street outside St. Louis Public Radio by noon on Sat. Dec 26, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A three-day forecast of heavy rain and out-of-season thunderstorms has placed the St. Louis area under a flash flood watch through Monday afternoon. The flood watch began Saturday at noon.

“Even though the calendar says December, Mother Nature doesn’t think so,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller. “This is a system more typical of fall or actually spring.  There’s going to be some scattered thunderstorms that are going to produce some heavy rain fall.”

Water levels on the Mississippi River rise to flood stages underneath Eads Bridge.
Sarah Kellogg

On Thursday, “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh led a discussion on the threat of flooding in the St. Louis area due to this year’s rainfall. Joining Marsh were Mark Fuchs, a service hydrologist for the National Weather Service, and Matthew Hunn, chief of emergency management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis.

Water levels on the Mississippi River rise to flood stages underneath Eads Bridge.
Sarah Kellogg

Most of the major waterways in the St. Louis region have crested or are near their crests following the wettest June on record.  More than 13.1 inches of rain fell last month, nearly an inch more than the previous record set in 2003.

High water levels on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers are declining and the Missouri River at St. Charles is forecast to crest at about four feet above flood stage Saturday afternoon.

(via Flickr/clip works)

Updated at 6 p.m., Friday, June 19:

More than a week's worth of persistent rainfall is testing the region's system of levees and reservoirs

Photograph courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / St. Louis District

Two years after the Great Flood of 1927 devastated the lower Mississippi River Valley, blues singers Kansas Joe McCoy and Lizzie “Memphis Minnie” Douglas shared the pain in their classic “When The Levee Breaks:”

If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break

If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break

And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay ...

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

Clarksville, Mo., has barely begun to set itself to rights after the latest deluge from the Mississippi River.  But city officials are already worried about the next flood.

"It just seems like the flood comes more and more often now," said Clarksville Emergency Manager Kathy Weiss. "Twenty years ago we didn’t have a flood every year, but seems like now every year or two years we’re having a flood. So we have to think of something more permanent.”

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