Spring Floods

Earlier in the week, we got over 10″ of rain across two days. The farther south you looked, the more rain had fallen by the time it was done, with places reporting well over a foot of rain. Unbelievable. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen rain like that.

Given where the rain had fallen, the impact to the rivers south of St. Louis was major and significant. Whole towns were underwater, with crests only being seen this weekend. After seeing so much of this, I decided to take the family out on a little safe sightseeing, and understand what was going on around us.

There were two areas I knew would be pretty safe, and reasonably easy to get to. One was just over the ridge from us, near Eureka High School, and the other was the major intersection of I-44 and Highway 141. Both were major roads, and should give us a good view of what the Meramec River was doing.

We started over the ridge on Old State Road. The radio (and the flashing signs) were indicating Highway 109 was closed at Old State, and only halfway down the hill, we were stopped by a police officer. As it ends up, he was directing traffic around an SUV that had run off the road into a tree. We breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we hadn’t yet been stopped by the water, and continued over the hill towards Glencoe. When we came off the hill, and onto the flat at Glencoe, we came face-to-face with the Meramec, and realized just how bad things were.

Eureka High School’s ball fields were completely underwater. In fact, they were so underwater that folks were kayaking on the flooded fields. The Eureka police made that a short-lived event, calling the kayakers over, and having some words with them. There was quite a crowd parking on the side of Highway 109, shooting photos, and all talking in amazement at the level of the water. We stayed and shot for a while, and decided to head to Fenton, where I-44 and Highway 141 meet, and to see first hand the incredible depth of water covering Highway 141. We got in the truck, marvelling at the water lapping at the edge of Highway 109, and headed south to I-44 at Eureka.

We drove east on I-44, again seeing the water close to the road, and decided to pull off at the Route 66 State Park site. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let us onto the bridge, which is where the best view of the water was. However, they did allow us access to the decking off the welcome center, and from there, we could see the Meramec flowing swiftly, beating up everything in its path. That was pretty doggone impressive. The crest had already hit there, and the water was now a foot below that crest… I’m not sure we would’ve noticed the difference.

From the park, we headed east again on I-44, knowing that we’d need to figure out some way to come up Highway 141 from the south. We passed the intersection, and hit the next exit (Bowles), and circled around to Highway 141, coming at the flooded intersection from the south. Two things struck me as we pulled off the road. One was the sheer volume of water. The other was the circus that was taking place there.

There were hundreds of people, and more than a handful of news crews, all there to cover the flood from what was probably the most photogenic spot around. I’d already seen this intersection on the NBC’s Nightly News, and could tell from the crowds that everyone had decided this was the place to come. And frankly, it was a pretty well-behaved crowd, and despite the throng, and the IQ lowering effect that usually has, I didn’t see anyone trying anything stupid. The police were good natured about it, and were letting folks gather and watch, taping and photographing this incredible muscle flexing of nature. It was truly amazing.

While we were there, a Coast Guard rescue helicopter flew over us, presumably just looking around, just in case. That’s definitely an unusual sight in Fenton!

It was a fun tour, a thing of sheer amazement, and left us with a sense of thankfulness that we weren’t party to any of its destructive force.