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St. Louis and St. Louis County need residents to report flood damage to seek federal aid

Garry Olson, left, and Sean Boyle, both of the Spanish Lake Fire Department, rescues Victorria Adams, 25, and her 9-month-old daughter Amiri Scott, from extreme flooding engulfing The Reserve at Winding Creek apartment complex on Tuesday in Hazelwood.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County officials are urging residents to report property damage caused by flash floods this week by calling 211, the United Way’s hotline to track damage.

St. Louis County leaders are urging residents to report property damage caused by this week’s flash floods.

Record-breaking rainfall caused floods throughout the region, particularly in north St. Louis County.

On Friday, St. Louis County Council Council Chair Rita Heard Days, County Executive Sam Page and other officials urged residents and business owners to call 211, the United Way hotline, to report damage. They were joined by mayors and emergency management officials.

Area officials say the damage reports will help the Federal Emergency Management Agency determine the resources people in the region need to recover.

“We have a lot of businesses, over probably 50 businesses, over 100 homes that have been destroyed over this flooding that occurred,” Florissant Mayor Tim Lowery said at the Florissant Meadows Shopping Center, where businesses experienced extensive flooding. “Probably one of the worst disasters that we've seen here in the city of Florissant in decades.”

Lowery said State Emergency Management Agency personnel are in the region to assess the damage. Inspectors from the county’s Public Works Department also are doing so.

“Many have put all the resources, everything they've had, in these businesses,” Lowery said. “But a lot of them don't have insurance, they need a lot of help. I've contacted many of our residents, they're in the same position, they have no means to even start rebuilding.”

SEMA will conduct a damage report that could lead to a federal disaster declaration, Page said. That could lead to small-business loans and assistance for people who need home repairs.

Hazelwood Mayor Matt Robinson said a lot of businesses and homes were damaged and experienced power outages.

Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones said her city’s fire department lost one of its vehicles, and several city businesses are permanently closed until cleanup operations begin. Jones said the city will be seeking volunteers to help with cleanup efforts.

County leaders say reporting the problems and taking photos will help state and federal agencies gauge the extent of the damage.

The flooding has been especially disruptive to Northwoods, where up to 85% of residents are senior citizens, Mayor Sharon Pace said.

“It would be very helpful to get that data and have it down so FEMA can assist us, hopefully in a quicker and more equitable manner,” Pace said.

City response

In St. Louis, Mayor Tishaura Jones and other city officials joined U.S. Rep. Cori Bush on Friday to address how the rain flooded portions of north St. Louis neighborhoods. The city has mobile command centers in the Kingsway West and Ellendale neighborhoods. City workers are distributing water, food, personal protective equipment and other emergency supplies daily between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The city’s health department has distributed care kits to help people clean up their homes.

“We know there is a need for nonperishable food items, clothing, cleaning supplies and behavioral health counseling,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, St. Louis health director. “Trauma during these times is real. It must be acknowledged, it must be given space, we will get you the help that you need.”

Davis said federally qualified health centers will provide free health care to people in need.

Congresswoman Cori Bush, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and other city officials are urging residents to report storm damage to 211. That will help the Federal Emergency Management Agency determine what’s needed for the region and declare a federal emergency.
Chad Davis
St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and other officials are urging residents to report storm damage to 211. That will help the Federal Emergency Management Agency determine what the region needs.

Jones, Page and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe have declared states of emergencies for the St. Louis region. That could lead to a federal disaster declaration, which could lead to federal aid.

“Right now our focus is providing relief and support for our residents,” Jones said. “We’re assessing the data, and we'll be examining solutions to protect our city in the future."

St. Louis Emergency Management Agency Commissioner Sarah Russell said a preliminary assessment of damages in St. Louis was conducted before Thursday’s storm. Russell said the damage should meet the threshold for a federal emergency. City officials have submitted additional requests to SEMA since the Thursday downpour.

Bush said her office has been in contact with the White House, which is awaiting the state damage assessment.

“President Biden is ready to declare a disaster emergency for St. Louis as soon as they receive that, Bush said. “So we're working diligently with local and state partners, local and state elected officials to be able to get this done. “

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.