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Rivers crest after wettest June on record

Water levels on the Mississippi River rise to flood stages underneath Eads Bridge.
Sarah Kellogg

Most of the major waterways in the St. Louis region have crested or are near their crests following the wettest June on record.  More than 13.1 inches of rain fell last month, nearly an inch more than the previous record set in 2003.

High water levels on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers are declining and the Missouri River at St. Charles is forecast to crest at about four feet above flood stage Saturday afternoon.

Russell Errett, a Hydraulic Engineer for the US Army Corps of Engineers, said the corps is using the break from rainy weather to free up flood control capacity at the district’s five reservoirs. 

“We are actively releasing water from those and freeing up flood storage space as quickly and safely as possible so that we’re ready for the next big rainfall event,” he said. “We know that one big rainfall event could fill up our reservoirs. We’re trying to evacuate that storage … between these crests,” Errett said.

The worst areas have been north of St. Louis near Meredosia. The Illinois River there crested nearly 11 feet above flood stage Thursday afternoon.

“There are some sandbagging efforts that’ve gone on along the Illinois River and then we have a lot of flood fighting teams out on our levees along the Mississippi River. They’re monitoring, taking action as necessary and trying to do our due diligence to get ready for our next event basically,” Errett said.

According to some meteorologists, a small upside to the unusually soggy weather is that temperatures are more likely to remain average or slightly lower this summer.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Ben Miller said the saturated ground in the St. Louis area will suppress daytime temperatures.  

“When you typically don’t have a hot dry summer — not that it can’t be hot, and it certainly will be humid — but, in general, the temperatures are at or below normal and usually you have above average rainfall for the rest of the summer,” he said.

Daily temperatures this month are expected to peak in the upper 80s and low 90s.

Miller said another effect of the rain is that saturated soil and vegetation tend to intensify water cycles and increase the likelihood for more rain.

“It does two things: it obviously gives moisture to the plants and they’re able to do, what we call, evapotranspirate, meaning the vegetation gives off moisture. So, with the vegetation doing that in full force and all this moisture in the ground available for evaporation, it kind of feeds on itself.”

Miller said, with more rain on the way next week, residents can expect to see similar high-water patterns through most of July.