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‘I’m traumatized’: Residents in East St. Louis, Cahokia Heights try to recover from flooding

A resident of the mobile home park, located near the intersection of Illinois 159 and 161 in Swansea looks out their front door to a flooded Wolf Branch creek.
Derik Holtmann
Belleville News-Democrat
A resident of the mobile home park, located near the intersection of Illinois 159 and 161 in Swansea looks out their front door to a flooded Wolf Branch creek.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

As record rainfall hit parts of the metro-east and St. Louis on Tuesday, Marcus Harris-Pride wondered how his home would recover from it. He said his home and his street were completely flooded.

“I said, ‘Whoa, this water is up to my step, ‘so I stayed for about 20 minutes or so, but the water is still rising, and now it’s gotten into my house and I couldn’t stay in there,” Harris-Pride, who lives on 729 Terrace Drive in East St. Louis, said about the flooding.”

Some areas in the region received over 12 inches of rainfall overnight. East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III declared a flood disaster for the city at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Some residents were evacuated to East St. Louis City Hall where volunteers, led by local organizer JD Dixon, assisted those who were displaced by the flood. Marcus Harris-Pride was one of them. He said he could only see the tops of cars on his street due to rainfall.

“It was pretty intense,” Harris-Pride said. “It was nerve-wracking. It was scary. My concern was just to get the elderly out who live in my neighborhood.”

Harris-Pride moved to his East St. Louis home from Swansea in April. He said he’s never experienced a flooding incident like Tuesday’s.

“I’m focusing on making sure I’m OK and what I’m about to do right now because I have no family here, but I have friends, so that’s cool,” Harris-Pride, 42, said.

“What’s going to be the disaster is when I walk back into my house, the floors, carpet, toiletries and everything will be damaged. Where do you go from here? I’m disabled and on a fixed income, so it’s like what do I do? Where do I go? I have to think about short and long-term now.”

Cassandra Carpenter-Coates, a neighbor of Harris-Pride, was also at East St. Louis City Hall on Tuesday. She’s worried about how she’ll get to work on Wednesday because she said her entire street was underwater. She lives in the home with her 10-year-old son.

“(I was) scared, anxious, crying, didn’t know what to do,”Carpenter-Coates said. “Worried about how I’m going to get to work tomorrow or if I need to take a bus. I don’t know if (my car) is floating in the street now. I’m traumatized. I may need some counseling because I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. All my stuff is in there, my son’s stuff.”

Cahokia Heights Mayor Curtis McCall said about four people in the area had to evacuate to Midway Fire Protection District for shelter, and he said his team is assisting with stranded cars. Patricia Greenwood, who lives on Piat Place in the former Centreville area of Cahokia Heights, said most of her home is flooded except her living room.

“I’m just trying to keep it all together, but it’s a lot,” Greenwood said. “We’re stuck. The street is all flooded.”

Walter Byrd, who also lives in Cahokia Heights, said that water didn’t get in his home, but his street was flooded. Both Byrd and Greenwood are members of Centreville Citizens for Change, a local group demanding solutions to extensive flooding and sewage issues in Cahokia Heights

“That was a lot of water, and we’re waiting on it to go down now,” Byrd said. “When it rains like this, it gets really bad. I’ve been getting calls since 4 a.m. from people who couldn’t leave their homes. It’s nothing we can do.”

DeAsia Page covers East St. Louis and its surrounding areas for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.