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Torrential rain collapses sewer line, leads to condemnations

Updated 9:30 p.m. with additional lane closures:

The Missouri Department of Transportation now says they will have to close the two right lanes of eastbound Interstate 70 at Shreve during Monday morning rush  hour to repair a collapsed sewer line. That will leave one lane open between Shreve and West Florissant. MoDOT officials are strongly urging people to avoid the area.

Our earlier story:

A torrential downpour that soaked the St. Louis area on Sunday night has displaced the residents of at least 40 homes in north St. Louis and collapsed a 10-foot by 15-foot sewer line.

As much a six inches of rain fell in the space of 90 minutes, says Metropolitan Sewer District spokesman Lance LeComb. The enormous sewer pipe, located under eastbound Interstate 70 at Shreve, collapsed around 3 a.m.

"It's just simply too much rainwater for the system to handle," he said. "And unfortunately that is a result of the way the system was designed beginning in the 1850s."

LeComb says the agency is investigating whether the sewer collapse caused the backups into the homes, or if the backups put too much pressure on the system and caused the collapse. One lane of eastbound 70 between Shreve and West Florissant, as well as the Shreve-Bircher entrance ramp onto eastbound 70, are closed until work is completed.

Two streets - Dryden Court and Essex Place - took the worst hit. Many homes were condemned for health reasons.

Annie Anderson has lived on Dryden Court since 1985, and says she's never seen flooding like Sunday's.

Around midnight, Anderson started hearing water running into her basement. Within 90 minutes, she said, it was ankle-deep in the living room.

She knew she had to leave - a task complicated by the ongoing storm.

"We couldn't leave, we couldn't go anywhere," she said. "The cars were covered with water. The house was dangerous, the court was just a river."

Mayor Francis Slay says some basements remained flooded on Sunday afternoon. He says the city is working with MSD, the Red Cross and United Way to get services to residents who had to evacuate, and says he may request help from the federal government. Police chief Dan Isom has authorized a detail to guard the streets where residents evacuated.

According to the National Weather Service:

  • Storm activity kept firing up along a line that stretched from St. Charles into St. Louis city and county and across the river into St. Clair County.
  • The gage at Lambert Airport got 4.43 inches of rain in eight hours. In St. Charles, it was 6 inches. In St. Clair, Ill., spotters reported about 4 inches.
  • Weather service investigators are evaluating wind damage in Park Hills, Mo., about 70 miles south of St. Louis. There were reports of funnel clouds in St. Francois, Franklin, and Washington counties.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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