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Levee fails, crests coming as flooding woes continue across St. Louis

Levee fails, crests coming as flooding woes continue across St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS — As near-historic flooding continued in the St. Louis region Sunday, a levee failed in Lincoln County and the waters of the Mississippi River crept further up the steps to the Gateway Arch.

“It’s amazing to think there’s a whole street under there,” said Terry Seckel, of St. John, who came to the Arch Sunday to see the flooding for himself. All around him, the river rushed past high enough that only the tops of trees on the riverfront could be seen above the water. The flood came up to the heels of figures on pedestrian crossing signs, and water met the steps to the monument like the entry to a murky swimming pool.

Flooding also led Sunday to a lack of hot water at Busch Stadium, the City Justice Center, four hotels and six other buildings downtown.

The Mississippi River in St. Louis is set to rise two more feet by Thursday to 46 feet, the second-highest crest on record. The highest was in 1993. The water won’t get anywhere near the Gateway Arch itself, but the riverfront road, Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, will likely be underwater for weeks to come.

Thunderstorms in St. Louis Saturday and a forecast predicting showers and thunderstorms beginning Monday and through the week will only prolong the flooding in the city, according to the National Weather Service.

Flooding forecast: How high will floodwaters rise?

In Lincoln County Sunday, floodwaters created about a 100-foot-wide breach in the Pin Oak Levee that protects a section of Winfield, about an hour’s drive north of St. Louis. The police department ordered people to evacuate portions of the city of about 1,400 after water began gushing through a breach in the levee. According to the National Weather Service nearly 800 people were affected by the breach.

Floodwaters first overtopped the levee early Sunday, in part due to damage from Saturday night’s thunderstorms. The breach was confirmed by about 4 p.m., according to the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ten people had stayed at a Red Cross shelter in Winfield Saturday night, said Red Cross spokeswoman Sharon Watson.

The shelter at Winfield High School, 3920 Highway 47, can hold up to 60 people. It accepts pets although residents must bring food and care for their animals. The Red Cross opened a shelter Sunday in St. Charles at St. John United Church of Christ, 405 South Fifth Street.

In St. Charles County, families in riverfront towns were also displaced over the weekend, including the area around Portage des Sioux, a town of 330 people on the Mississippi River.

Steve Schade visited his home outside the town Sunday to check the flooding, pulling up by boat to his second-story deck. The home’s second floor was already under about a foot of floodwater. That section of the Mississippi is also expected to rise two more feet by Thursday.

“When this place doesn’t flood, it’s heaven on earth,” said Schade who has owned the home since 2004.

Police issued a voluntary evacuation order Saturday in St. Charles County for Portage des Sioux, West Alton and Orchard Farm.  The Red Cross opened a new shelter in St. Charles to help those affected by flooding. The shelter is at Saint John United Church of Christ, 405 South Fifth Street in St. Charles.

Hotels lose hot water

A combination of the high Mississippi River and Saturday’s intense rainstorm set off a chain of events that led to 12 downtown buildings being without hot water Sunday.

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District spokesman Sean Hadley said water overwhelmed the pump station at the foot of Carr Street early Sunday. A force main pipe was damaged and the station had to shut down.

“There was nowhere for the water to go. It went upstream to Ashley Energy, and it shut down their plant,” Hadley said.

Ashley Energy provides steam for hot water for many buildings downtown. The City Justice Center, Busch Stadium, Westin St. Louis Hotel, Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel, Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark and six other buildings were all affected by the outage.

“Some don’t have hot water, some don’t have steam for their laundry,” Hadley said. All of the buildings stayed open for business, he said.

The hot-water problems came at a bad time. Many hotels were crowded with visitors for the Stanley Cup Final and the Cardinals-Cubs games.

“The Health Department has said that things are safe. People can function without hot water,” he said. “It’s just an inconvenience.”

The MSD has set up temporary pumps at the Carr Street station, Hadley said, and Ashley Energy is setting up a temporary steam plant outside its plant. Ashley is trying to bring in temporary boilers to provide steam to the region.

Everything should be up and running within the next few days, he said.

The Mississippi crested at a record 49.6 feet above flood stage in 1993.

”With all of the operations we have in place now, we have never seen anything like this. A lot of this (equipment) was not in place in 1993. Now we are seeing what it can do,” Hadley said.

Daniel Neman and David Carson of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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