Torrential and record-breaking rainfall caused widespread flash flooding in the St. Louis area Tuesday morning, killing at least one person, rescuing people trapped in vehicles and homes and causing road closures, including on part of Interstate 70, officials said.
In St. Louis itself, more than 20 inches of rain had fallen between midnight and 7 a.m., surpassing the city’s one-day record of 6.85 inches set on August 20, 1915. said.
In the wider St. Louis area, about 6 to 10 inches of rain fell from midnight to 6 a.m., according to the weather service. More rain was forecast, although it was expected to happen phase out late morning and late afternoon, the St. Louis Weather Service office wrote.
One person was found dead in a vehicle that got stuck in “about two and a half” water in western St. Louis, fire chief Dennis Jenkerson said. Authorities checked the vehicle after a caller reported that someone may have been inside and found the body as the water receded, the chief said.
Floodwater surrounded vehicles on other St. Louis streets and crept into apartments and other buildings, videos on social media showed.
Kneeling on the roof of a flooded car, a rescuer in St. Louis handed a child to other rescuers in a boat, as seen in video recorded by Victorria Adams from an apartment balcony. “My neighbors woke me up to tell me what was going on. Then I walked into all this,” Adams told CNN of the flooding that turned the street outside her apartment into a virtual river.
In the Ellendale neighborhood of St. Louis, firefighters checked about 18 flooded homes and rescued six people and six dogs by boat. said early Tuesday.
Water entered Andrew Schafer’s St. Louis home “like a waterfall,” he told CNN affiliate KMOV.
“I carried all three of my dogs, three children and my wife outside,” Schafer told KMOV.
Emergency calls in St. Louis County came in “for several people trapped” in floodwaters, the district emergency management office said.
“We urge everyone to avoid travel!” the office posted on Twitter, adding that central parts of the province were most affected.
Portions of St. Louis’s MetroLink rail system were flooded, and potential riders should expect delays of two hours or more, the provider said.
MetroLink’s Forest Park-DeBaliviere open-air station, just north of the city’s zoo, was under water, according to footage by resident Tony Nipert. He noticed the flooding while walking his dogs, he told CNN.
“It’s a river right now,” he says wrote on Twitter about the station Tuesday morning. “I have never seen this in the 4 years I have lived here.”
According to PowerOutage.us, more than 6,000 power outages were reported in St. Louis County and more than 1,100 in neighboring St. Charles County by around 1:50 p.m.
In the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, a fire crew helped Leisha Waters and her children from their apartment building on Tuesday after it was surrounded by flooding, she told CNN.
“I was in the house with the window open to get light because the power went out, and I heard the firefighter screaming on a boat,” Waters said. “So me and my kids packed a bag and left.”
Power went out for more than 10,000 homes and businesses in St. Charles and St. Louis counties, most of them in the United States
Floods also gathered on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, including the East St. Louis area, where portions of highways or their ramps were temporarily closed, the weather service said.
Vehicles were reported submerged or otherwise stranded on flooded streets in various parts of the St. Louis area, the weather service said said shortly after 6:30 a.m.
All four highways into downtown St. Louis — I-70, I-64, I-55 and I-44 — were closed at least once early Tuesday due to flooding, KMOV reported. Motorists in particular were urged to avoid I-70 in the St. Louis area, the state highway patrol said.
A stretch of I-70 was closed in both directions before dawn in St. Peters, about 30 miles northwest of St. Louis.
Jerome Smith found himself stuck on that section of I-70 for three hours as workers tried to empty the sewers, he told CNN. The highway was covered in water, which was held back by barriers on both sides, video he recorded from his vehicle.
“You can see cars floating up there. … It’s just all wrapped up — the water has nowhere to go,” Smith says in the video.
Such heavy rainfall in the St. Louis area, according to weather data, occurs on average only once every 500 years.
But the climate crisis is making these extremes more frequent and causing massive rainfall around the world. The atmosphere can hold more moisture as temperatures rise, making it even more likely to break important records. More water vapor in the atmosphere means more moisture is available to fall as rain, leading to higher rainfall.
Man-made fossil fuel emissions have warmed the planet on average just over 1 degree Celsius, with warming more intense over land areas. Scientists are increasingly confident in the role the climate crisis plays in extreme weather and have warned that these events will become more intense and dangerous with every fraction of a degree of warming.