A new round of rain will pound Missouri on Wednesday, paralyzing a region already suffering from swollen rivers and flooded streets after a heavy downpour last week.
The weekend flooding killed two people in the state, inundated homes and businesses, and led to the closing of 272 roads.
Along the Meramec River in Eureka, residents piled up sandbags to protect homes and businesses Tuesday. Heavy rains in the St. Louis area Wednesday morning will strain the river, which will likely surpass height records it set in December 2015, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.
Forecasters say up to 4 inches of rain will fall in the St. Louis area, which is saturated with runoff from the weekend floods
‘Never seen it this bad’
The city shut down roads and schools following heavy rain throughout the weekend.
Kristen Wingerter Martinez said residents are confined to the city after roads shut down, and some started filling sandbags as early as 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to prepare for more heavy rain.
“My husband has lived in Eureka since 1972, never seen it this bad,” Martinez said of the days of rain. “Kids are out of school. People can’t make it to work. National Guard brought in. A community pulling together to save our favorite pizza place. Elks lodge feeding all the volunteers with the American flag flying high in Eureka.”
Eureka police chief, Michael A. Wiegand, urged residents to follow instructions.
“This is some of the highest water we have ever seen and it will be higher than 2015,” he told CNN affiliate KTVI. “We need to all use our common sense. Don’t drown turn around, if you see standing water don’t drive through it whatsoever.”
Four St. Louis County school districts are closed Wednesday, citing concerns about student safety and transportation in the event of flooding. Lindbergh, Mehlville, Northwest and Rockwood School Districts have all closed.
“I’m aware of many employees who live in areas affected by this natural disaster. We simply cannot open our schools with the current shortage of bus drivers, teachers and support staff,” Rockwood School Districts Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost said in a statement.
To get to Eureka High School, where Knost spent his day Tuesday, he had to get assistance from the US Coast Guard in a boat.
“Our employees will be on site around the clock, attending to the ever-changing situation,” he said. “We are trying to hold waters back as we approach the flood’s crest and even more rain and storms are heading our way.”
The Missouri Department of Transportation said it would close a part of Interstate 55 in St. Louis overnight into Wednesday morning due to the rising floodwaters. Interstate 44 is also closed on two spots, it said.
Nine shelters are in place as hundreds of people in the area have been evacuated, said Peggy Barnhart of the Red Cross.
She described it as an “escalating disaster,” with the agency anticipating all rivers around St. Louis to crest before the end of the week.
The St. Louis County Office of Emergency Management issued a flood warning until 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The Missouri American Water is asking some customers in St. Louis County to conserve water in the next few days pending a possible shut down of their South Plant. The plant takes in water from the Meramec River for distribution in South St. Louis, and may go offline until Saturday.
Other states affected
The National Weather Service said flood warnings would likely be extended in parts of Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, Illinois and Indiana, where major to record flooding would continue.
“Many of the rivers in these states have crested or (are) nearing crest and remain in moderate or major flood category. Many roads across this region are closed because of the flooding,” it said.