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St. Louis FFs rescue residents, pets after record rainfall causes flooding

While there were no reports of injuries, the damage from the downpour and flooding was widespread


St. Louis firefighters used a boat to rescue people from their flooded homes on Hermitage Avenue in St. Louis on Tuesday. Steven Bertke and his dog, Roscoe, were taken to dry land.

David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Associated Press

Jim Salter
Associated Press

O’FALLON, Mo. — Record rainfall caused widespread flash flooding across the St. Louis area early Tuesday, closing multiple roadways and prompting rescues from vehicles and homes.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, but the damage was widespread after a massive downpour dropped more than 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain in parts of St. Charles County and up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) elsewhere in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

By 8 a.m., 8.3 inches of rain had fallen at Lambert Airport, demolishing the previous daily record of 6.85 inches set Aug. 20, 1915, when remnants of the Galveston, Texas, hurricane moved north to St. Louis. Forecasters expected Tuesday’s rain to wrap up by late morning, but more storms were likely through the rest of the week.

Firefighters across the St. Louis region were busy with water rescues. A section of Interstate 70 was closed in St. Peters, and many other roadways were flooded. Some vehicles were completely submerged.

In the city of St. Louis, the fire department rescued people from 18 homes in the same general area after floodwaters made it into houses. The fire department said on Twitter that six people and six dogs were rescued by boat, while 15 others declined to leave their homes.

In the St. Louis County town of Brentwood, residents were forced to evacuate when Deer Creek overflowed.

Rising waters also threatened homes in Ladue, one of the wealthiest cities in Missouri.

Flooding was so bad that the iconic Gateway Arch closed for the day.

National Weather Service meteorologist Marshall Pfahler said a storm that moved into the St. Louis area around midnight that stalled and kept pouring water over the same relatively narrow band.

“You have this swath of up to 10-inch amounts, and a county or two south they had a trace or even less,” Pfahler said.

The remarkable rainfall followed a period of extended drought in the region. The ground was rock-hard before Tuesday morning and Pfahler said that may have played a small role in the flash flooding. A bigger factor, he said, was that the storm hit a metro area with a lot of concrete and asphalt, rather than grassy areas that could absorb the moisture more readily.

While the St. Louis region got the worst of it, other places were soaked, too. The central Missouri town of Mexico received more than 6 inches of rain. Similar rainfall totals were reported in parts of southern Illinois.