Preparations for flooding in the St. Louis area are building, yet concerns remain in southern Missouri where there’s already been major damage.
A flash flood watch is in effect from Tuesday night through Thursday morning because of an additional one–to-three inches of rain forecast for the region.
The buildup of water levels is largely centered in the Meramec River west of St. Louis. I-44 is closed over a 25-mile stretch between Highway 100 in Gray Summit to I-270.
MoDOT spokesperson Tom Blair said Route 100 from Interstate 270 to Gray Summit is the alternate route to I-44. Route 109 in the area is also closed at Eureka High School.
KMOX radio reported early Tuesday afternoon that I-55 in south St. Louis County will close at midnight Tuesday because of flooding.
The closure could last for several days while flood conditions are expected. St. Louis County leadership and police were holding a press conference Tuesday morning with representatives of MoDOT, the sewer district and utilities to talk about flood status and ongoing preparations.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources notes some communities in the state are battling rising floodwaters and preparing for imminent flooding while others are beginning their recovery. The department is offering assistance and guidance to communities in need.
Some of the hardest hit spots in the state that are still recovering are West Plains and Neosho in south Missouri.
More than 10 inches of rain fell in Neosho over the weekend as crews, including the state highway patrol and Department of Conservation, performed over 200 water rescues.
Lawmakers, including U.S. Congressman Jason Smith, gathered with city leaders in West Plains Monday to discuss recovery operations. West Plains Emergency Management Director Kent Edge said the city was devastated by overwhelming rainfall.
“I think the flooding was caused because we got 9.2 inches of rain in six hours” said Edge. “Our first responders have worked tirelessly to get everything done.”
During a conference call Tuesday morning with reporters, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt said it was likely federal dollars would be needed to assist with recovery, but stated the extent of further flooding would determine how much relief is required.
“Some of our rivers flood pretty quickly, and then you know exactly what happened” said Blunt. “And some of the bigger rivers, it takes a while to get a sense of whether this water is going to go somewhere else, or it’s going to continue to cause even bigger problems further downstream. And we’re going to have to watch that.”
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill also spoke with reporters Tuesday. She noted it’s impossible to determine damage until eastern Missouri rivers have crested, which is predicted to take place Wednesday.
“Until we know what the final damage is in the these various communities, we won’t know whether or not they will qualify for federal aid” said McCaskill. “But Roy (Blunt) and I will be working together in cooperation with the governor’s office to do whatever we can do (so) that Missourians might be entitled to in the aftermath of this flooding.”
More broadly over the region, mayors from Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas were to hold a briefing Tuesday afternoon to discuss ongoing impacts of the flooding taking place in the Mississippi River Valley where 2/3 of Missouri is currently under a flood warning. 75 mayors in the three states are involved in the discussions.