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Latest flood news: Interstates reopen; State of emergency lifted in St. Louis County

Latest flood news: Interstates reopen; State of emergency lifted in St. Louis County

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The St. Louis region is grappling with the most extensive flooding seen in more than 20 years. Record rainfall over the weekend and Monday pushed rivers to record heights in some areas.

I-44, I-55 and other roads reopen 

Two interstate highways and a key thoroughfare have reopened in the St. Louis region as floodwater recedes.

At 9:30 a.m. lanes of Interstate 44 opened in both directions — ending a shutdown that had closed off up to 24 miles of the interstate.

All lanes of 44 in both directions are open, following partial lane openings earlier Friday, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation

Earlier, MODOT announced that four lanes of southbound I-55 are open to traffic at the Meramec River in Arnold. Three lanes of northbound are also open.

Meanwhile, Route 109 north of I-44 in Eureka is now open -- as is northbound traffic on Highway 21 (Tesson Ferry).

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At least 1,000 homes and businesses flooded in St. Louis County; Emergency lifted

St. Louis County emergency director Mark Diedrich estimated that 1,000 homes and businesses in the county along the Meramec were damaged, although he warned “the number probably will change wildly over the next few days” as inspectors get back into flooded areas. He said most of the damage was to homes, and the biggest concentration in St. Louis County was in and near Eureka.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger lifted the state of emergency Friday for the county.

Diedrich said inspectors will be working for several days to prepare formal damage assessments for Missouri's anticipated request for federal assistance.

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Levee breaches near tiny St. Mary, Mo.

Sandbagging efforts are underway in the tiny town of St. Mary, Missouri, after the breach of a Mississippi River levee.

The levee break mostly impacts agricultural land, but water was approaching St. Mary, a town of about 360 residents. Neighbors and volunteers were placing sandbags around endangered homes. There were no immediate reports of damage.

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Arnold, Pacific residents watch water recede

n Arnold, Mike Turnbough of Piper Drive spent Friday watching the receding water in his yard and the slowly falling stew inside his basement, where sewer backup rose seven feet. It ruined family pictures on a shelf and appliances, including the water heater.

“I used to have a finished basement,” said Turnbough. “It's not the end of the world. It could have been worse. But I think I'll just keep the basement bare concrete from now on.”

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Valley Park evacuation order lifted

At 11:45 a.m. Friday, Valley Park Mayor Mike Pennise lifted the evacuation order he had imposed on Wednesday morning.

“The levee did a wonderful job, and people already are coming back in,” he said.

The flood reached nearly to the top of the levee, which was completed in 2005.

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Meramec waters recede after hitting records

As the Meramec River continued falling, local inspectors followed the water's retreat to assess damage.

In Sullivan, in Franklin County, the Meramec already was below flood stage Friday morning after a drop of 24 feet since cresting Tuesday.

Here are other flood numbers on the lower Meramec, and some partial damage estimates:

At Pacific, where the river crested at 33.4 feet on Wednesday, within a few inches of its 1982 record, the river had fallen nearly 12 feet as of Friday morning and was forecast to drop below flood stage late Friday. 

In Eureka, the river crested Thursday at 46.1 feet, nearly four feet over the 1982 record. It had fallen more than 10 feet by Friday morning and is expected below flood stage Saturday.

At Valley Park, the river crested at 44.1 feet late Thursday, or 4.4 feet over its 1982 record. It had fallen seven feet by Friday morning. 

In Arnold, the Meramec crested late Thursday or early Friday at 47.3 feet, two feet over the 1993 record. 

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911 restored in Jefferson County

Officials with Jefferson County 911 Dispatch say emergency phone service has been restored to all areas.

Emergency phone service was disrupted Thursday for portions of northern Jefferson County and south St. Louis County due to floodwater inundating an AT&T facility.

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Illinois governor tours Metro East

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner toured flood-damaged parts of the Metro East Friday.

His stops include Grafton, Alton, Pontoon Beach, Prairie du Rocher, Evansville and Chester.

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Cape Girardeau expecting record crest

The Mississippi slowly crept up the flood wall Friday at Cape Girardeau and is expected to notch a record high water mark, besting the great flood of 1993. 

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-MO, appeared at the downtown flood gate Friday and highlighted Cape Girardeau as a model of flood fighting vigilance, while noting significant improvements will need to be made to the area's water system, particularly in St. Louis. 

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15th Missouri flooding death confirmed

The number of fatalities in the state of Missouri due to flooding has risen to 15 with the recovery at about 11 a.m. Friday of the body of a man in Polk County.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety reports that the body was found  just downstream from where a motorist was swept away by flood water on Dec. 26.

The death is also at least the 22nd caused by the flooding through the Midwest.

Bagnell Dam at normal flow at Lake of the Ozarks

At Lake of the Ozarks, Ameren Missouri opened all 12 floodgates on Bagnell Dam from Saturday through Thursday morning, then returned to normal flow, a spokeswoman said.

The weekend downpours across southern Missouri had boosted the lake level nearly five feet. The dam is on the Osage River, which flows into the Missouri River east of Jefferson City.

Memphis prepares for floodwater from Missouri 

The high water causing problems in Illinois and Missouri is heading south toward Memphis, Tennessee.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest in Memphis at 42 feet on Jan. 9. Although no major flooding was expected in the city, officials were moving to protect roads and a local airport.

Meanwhile, other parts of Tennessee and western Kentucky face flood threats as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority work to control water levels.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for the Cumberland River at Dover, Tennessee, through Monday evening.

And minor flooding along the Ohio River was affecting the Kentucky cities of Owensboro and Paducah. The river isn't expected to crest until Thursday. Moderate flooding was reported along the Green River near Paradise, Kentucky.

Len Small levee topped in southwestern Illinois

Authorities in southern Illinois are urging residents living behind the Len Small levee to move to higher ground after Mississippi River water topped it.

The levee in the far southwestern tip of Illinois protects the towns of Olive Branch, Hodges Park, Unity and rural homes. All told, about 500 people live behind the levee.

Alexander County Board Chairman Chalen Tatum says the river is expected to rise another foot and a half before cresting Sunday, so flooding is expected to get much worse. He issued what he called an emergency evacuation order Friday.

The county is also urging residents in and near East Cape Girardeau, Illinois, to evacuate. The move is precautionary: A levee there is holding for now but a record crest is predicted.

Schools in St. Louis region mostly spared from flood damage

Throughout the region, school officials say their buildings have been largely spared the flood damage that has led to highway closures and ruined homes along the Meramec and other rivers.

Floodwater surrounded Eureka High School, but administrators say sandbagging was effective. 

School resumes Monday and Tuesday for most school districts.

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A roundup of flooding from Thursday

The bulging Meramec River broke flood records Thursday as it overwhelmed a second interstate highway and stranded thousands of commuters who, on most days, barely give a thought to the meandering stream.

For several hours, the only way between Jefferson and St. Louis counties by vehicle was over the Telegraph Road bridge at Arnold. Not surprisingly, it was bumper-to-bumper throughout the day.

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