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Big River continues to threaten Jefferson County residents

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Julie Bierach, KWMU
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Highway 30 near Byrnesville.

By Julie Bierach, KWMU

SAINT LOUIS, MO – Residents in Jefferson County are still evacuating due to flooding in Cedar Hill and Byrnesville. People are leaving their farms and homes as the Big River and the Meramec River wash out roads.

At a Red Cross shelter in the gym of Northwest High School in Cedar Hill, mother and daughter Velda Boyer and Theresa Harris are resting and drinking coffee. At 4:30 this morning, the fire department knocked on the door of their mobile home in Cedar Hill and told them to evacuate.

Velda Boyer said when they went to bed there was no water, but it was a different story this morning. "It was coming up into the floor board of my car when we left. In fact, when I backed my car out, it stalled and we had to have a tow truck come out and push it out of the water," said Boyer.

The Big River is expected to rise to nearly 28 feet by this evening. That's 12 feet above flood stage.

At a home and farm off Highway 30 near Byrnesville, 22 year-old Christopher Bonacker is helping his uncle move equipment and animals. He said they made the decision to evacuate at 9:30 last night, when the basement became full of water and rose to about a foot from the first floor.

"We didn't think it was gonna come up yesterday afternoon this bad and then it was only coming up two inches an hour and then it picked up to about 4 to 6 inches an hour, and we started moving stuff out and finally got it done about 3:30 last night," said Bonacker.

Bonacker and his family are expecting another 8 inches in the house by tonight. He says in all, they evacuated 50 goats, 2 pigs and one horse to a barn down the road.

A few yards away from Bonacker's uncle's farm, Scott Heil and his family haven't yet made the decision to leave their home. His family is trying to contact the Army Corps of Engineers to find out whether they should evacuate.

"Yesterday it was rising probably about a foot and a half an hour. And today we're trying to judge it, but we can't get a hold of the Army Corps of Engineers. So we're going to get the kids out and try to hang in, but if not we're gonna start moving stuff out," said and irritated Heil.

The Meramec River is also forcing evacuations in Eureka, where the river is expected to crest at 43 feet on Saturday, surpassing the December 1982 record flood of 42.9 feet.

The National Weather Service is now calling for the Meramec to crest 16-and-a-half feet above flood stage at Pacific Friday night;25 feet above flood stage in Eureka Saturday morning, which would be a new record; 24 feet above flood stage in Valley Park Saturday morning; and 17 feet above flood stage at Arnold Saturday night.

The Red Cross says it has room for 500 people at three shelters in the region. They are at the Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church in Ballwin, Northwest High School in Cedar Hill and Riverbend School in Pacific. Those shelters will remain open 24 hours a day until the need is met.

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