Flood | St. Louis Public Radio

Flood

A community chorus rehearses for a performance of "The Flood," a concert musical about the effect of the Great Flood of '93 on the village of Valmeyer. July, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A community chorus stood shoulder to shoulder, 30 members strong, on the sanctuary steps of St. John United Church of Christ in Valmeyer, Illinois, on a recent Monday evening. Sopranos, altos, baritones — their voices blended as one — rising and falling with lyrics inspired by the Great Flood of '93.

The words weigh heavily on those in the group who experienced firsthand the Valmeyer flood. They remember as if it were yesterday, that steamy, chaotic summer spent shoveling sand into thousands of bags and heaving them onto earthen levees that had protected their little town for half a century.

This time, the Mississippi River won.

Michael Bauermeister works on a piece in his studio in early July. July, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Along Augusta Bottom Road, in rural St. Charles County, sits the town of Nona. A century-old general store is about all that’s left, and Michael Bauermeister, its owner.

More than three decades ago Bauermeister converted the building into his woodshop. He and his wife, Gloria, brought their two young sons here in 1987. Michael set up the shop on the main floor, and he and his family lived in the 900-square foot apartment above.

During the Great Flood of 1993, the Mississippi River climbed half-way up the grand staircase of the Gateway Arch to its highest level recorded in the city of St. Louis.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Twenty-five years ago, on Aug. 1, 1993, the Mississippi River crested in the city of St. Louis at the highest level ever recorded — 49.58 feet. By the time the water retreated, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers had topped or burst levees in nine states, killed 50 people and caused $15 billion in damage. Residents can still feel the impact of the watershed disaster a quarter of a century later.

Hannibal native Melissa Scholes Young is the author of "Flood."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri native Melissa Scholes Young has fond memories of growing up in Hannibal.

“It is a welcome community, it is a place where I’m really proud to be from,” Young told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Thursday. “It is what I still consider my hometown even though I left there when I was 17. I always return to my roots and I’m very aware of the way that being raised in a place with hardworking people ... how that has affected where I’ve gone in the world and the way I live my life.”

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

Due to heavy rain in the St. Louis region, multiple streams throughout eastern and central Missouri are being monitored by the National Weather Service. The agency has issued several flood warnings for this evening. 

Flood warnings are indicative of when rivers are expected to exceed the flood stage, where human impact begins.

Rising rivers threaten St. Louis area towns, roads

Apr 30, 2017
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. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The countryside seems to get emptier every time Debra Tarver visits Pinhook, the tiny village in Missouri’s Mississippi County that was her family’s home until the Army Corps of Engineers blew a big hole in the levee on May 2, 2011, allowing the rampaging Mississippi River to storm the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.

“I don’t come down often,” said Tarver, 55, as she surveyed acres and acres of floodway from the car window. “It’s just painful. There used to be houses all along here. They’re gone. The people are gone.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 28, 2011 - DORENA, MO. -- For 89-year-old Ruben "Brother" Bennett, home is now a trailer parked next to the flood-shattered ruins of his country store located in the southern part of the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.