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As a climbing, near-record crest on the Mississippi River floods adjacent stretches of the River Des Peres, some St. Louis County residents along the tributary are being evacuated.

That was the case Tuesday morning at five buildings belonging to the Cedar Creek Lodge Apartments complex on Olde English Road near Affton, according to Tracy Panus, a public information officer for the St. Louis County Police Department’s Office of Emergency Management.

Rising floodwater spurred emergency management officials to evacuate the residents, Panus said.

“We need them to leave,” said Panus, explaining the immediacy of the evacuations. “This morning, the water was at a level where we felt it wasn’t safe for them to be in those buildings any longer.”

Transportation was provided to take residents to an emergency shelter at the Kennedy Recreation Complex in south St. Louis County.

Panus said it was unclear how much water might enter the buildings. Residents did not have time to move extensive belongings or furniture to safety, she said.

“They’re grabbing whatever they can,” Panus said.

To county emergency management officials, the apartment complex represents the point of greatest concern for flooding, she said.

In flood-affected areas around the region, including along the River Des Peres, surveyors have worked to identify areas and properties put at risk by the projected crests of major rivers. Panus was unsure if similar work had been done around Olde English Road, where Tuesday’s evacuations were happening.

“That’s the direction that the water went, and we had to react to that,” she said.

People moving belongings from the apartment buildings said residents were told about the evacuation with knocks on their doors Tuesday morning. They said problems from flooding have been a recurring theme in recent years, and voiced frustration with the lack of flood preparation or warnings at the properties before Tuesday.

“We were expecting this. I’m shocked they just started sandbagging,” said Charlie Carlin, who was moving possessions from a third-floor apartment where her boyfriend is the main resident.

Carlin said the lower levels of some buildings were still being renovated “from the last flood two years ago,” which also ruined cars parked outside.

“The last people who lived here, they lost everything,” she said, explaining that tenants have renters insurance, but not necessarily flood coverage. “We’re the fortunate ones (on higher floors) that won’t lose our belongings to the water.”

With a creek just southeast of the apartments that runs into the River Des Peres, some people criticized the property owners for failing to address repeated flood problems. But Carlin said entities such as the county should have seen the latest threat coming, and done something sooner.

“First and foremost, it should’ve come from them,” she said. “They know the problems down the river.”

A representative of The Wellington Group, the company that manages the apartments, declined to say how many residents were affected by the evacuations.

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By Tuesday afternoon, a few residents from the apartments had reported to an emergency shelter at the Kennedy Recreation Complex, farther south in unincorporated St. Louis County.

“We’re anticipating at some point, it’s going to be a lot more,” said Richard Gilmore, a Red Cross volunteer from Sarasota, Fla., who serves as the shelter manager. “I anticipate there will be a wave.”

Gilmore said Tuesday was the shelter’s first day of operation, and that the facility is jointly run by the Red Cross and the county. At this early stage, it was unclear how many flood victims from throughout the region might come to the shelter, and how long they might stay, Gilmore said.

He estimated the facility could accommodate “several hundred” victims if needed.

Right outside the building, officials from the St. Louis County Police Department’s Office of Emergency Management began to set up a climate-controlled tent area that would accommodate the pets of people staying in the shelter.

Despite the National Weather Service’s expectation of “strong to severe” thunderstorms overnight and additional rain throughout the week, river forecasts held steady Tuesday, with the Mississippi still expected to reach a crest of 46 feet on Thursday. At downtown St. Louis, the river is currently at its second-highest flood stage in recorded history, trailing only the 49.6-foot crest seen during the Great Flood of 1993

More frequent major floods in recent years have drawn attention to factors that contribute to the area’s risk. Key influences include the greater potential for extreme precipitation caused by climate change, as well as what critics say is an overuse of levee systems. Some blame the structures for worsening floods by constricting rivers and preventing high water from spreading across natural floodplains.

Highlights of flooding coverage during the spring and summer 2019

Even before the rivers started rising above flood levels during the spring of 2019, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters were covering impacts of flooding rivers in the St. Louis area.

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