Writer’s note: the photos in this piece have been borrowed. Will try to get to the riverfront for personal images on December 31, the projected day of the crest on the Mississippi. Getting anything but aerial photos from everywhere else just would not do the magnitude of this natural disaster justice. It’s a mess out here.
For those of us who lived through the Great Flood of 1993, the Holidays of 2015-16 are not quite a redux of that exhausting summer, but close. After winter storm Goliath dumped about ten inches of rain and a few tornadoes across the country, that water is gradually making its way from the open storm drains which, really, are natural little rivers to the great, big open rivers that make up the backbone of the river transportation system in the middle of the country – Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, and to an extent, the Ohio. Along the way, the world is seeing footage of just what happens when that amount of rain gets dumped on a river valley. Floods, broken levees, covered interstates, and a whole lot more. This photo from our local really good guy UPI photographer, Bill Greenblatt, brings back memories.
So far, the most dramatic footage seen here and everywhere has come from a river we in Mound City know as the Meramec. If St. Louis City and County more or less sit on an island with the Mississippi to the east and the Missouri to the north and west, the Meramec would be the southern boundry. The Meramec is the smallest of the major rivers, but in many ways, when it jumps the banks, it’s the most deadly. As of this writing, that swollen river has:
- Closed Interstate 44 at a major intersection with a county highway.
- Forced evacuations in a town called Valley Park.
- Flooded the athletic facilities at a HUGE suburban high school. (The football field is elevated and thus far has not has any washout.)
- Is threatening to close Interstate 55 overnight near a town in the next country south known as Arnold as water is rising on the highway.
- Closed office parks.
- Overrun a sewage treatment plant to the point that water conservation measures have been put in place in South County.
The Meramec has yet to crest, and has already set a record for flood stage. This photo was posted by St. Louis County Missouri Scanner Radio on Facebook of the Meramec River at Valley Park.
Also as of this writing, in the City of St. Louis, the banks of the major storm water drain into the Mississippi at the southern edge of the city, the River Des Peres, has been sandbagged to raise the levee height thanks to volunteers who worked in temperatures close to freezing Tuesday. (In July 1993, when this writer helped out, we were dying of the heat.) West Alton, north of the city, has also been evacuated. The flood wall has been braced, and the Mississippi crest is expected on New Year’s eve at just under 45 feet. That will be the second highest level in recorded history, right after August 1, 1993. Photo from Fox2Now:
On the Missouri River, the wide and shallower one, levees are taking a beating, but holding in most places. Flood plain left undisturbed is all underwater. Interstate 70 was closed in St. Charles County, just west of St. Louis, when Dardenne Creek, a tributary, flooded over it. The truly jaw dropping pictures are from Jefferson City where the state highway that leads to the capitol building has been damaged. This photo came from a Facebook user.
Farther southwest into the state, on the Osage River, the Bagnell Dam that holds together the Lake of the Ozarks (the one that a bunch of Middle Eastern men wanted to tour) has all the flood gates open for the first time in anyone’s memory and the hydroelectric turbines were running at 110% as the state and Ameren Missouri tried to drain off as much water as possible. The damage done to the tourist areas has yet to be tallied, but many locations were underwater on Tuesday.
In the larger scheme of things, this particular flood will be a “flash” flood, although, a pretty major flash. By this time next week, barring more rain, it will all be over but the clean up. In the meantime, just remember that whatever celebrity calamity has your favorite hero or heroine in the news, there are millions of your fellow Americans facing lost homes and businesses thanks to Mother Nature. The Limits household happens to be toward the top of a hill and miles from the big rivers. We’re lucky. So many family and friends are not. Please, keep us in your prayers as we wait for the waters to recede.