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Flash floods again overwhelm St. Louis roads and strand residents

Flash floodwaters strand cars on Lindell Boulevard near Vandeventer Avenue. in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
Flash floods leave cars stranded on Lindell Boulevard near Vandeventer Avenue in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. July 28

As St. Louis continued to recover from record-breaking rainfall early this week, another storm system hit the city Thursday.

The rain quickly flooded a portion of Lindell Boulevard near Vandeventer Avenue, submerging several cars.

Among the drivers caught by the high waters was the Rev. Paul Sheridan, a Jesuit priest. He was heading back to St. Louis University Jesuit Hall after eating lunch on the Hill when a flash flood surrounded his car.

Sheridan said he was following a car in front of him when his car became stuck.

“I'm sitting in the car now, and I can't move it backwards or forwards,” Sheridan said. “Once it reached the seat inside, I said time to get out, and I pushed my way out.”

By that point, Sheridan said, the water had reached the dashboard of his car.

“I had bad arthritis,” Sheridan said. “So after a few steps, I had my phone in my hand to keep it above the water, but … went underwater when I fell.”

Sheridan, who wasn’t injured, swam to a tree across the street, where St. Louis firefighters led him to the McDonald's on Lindell Boulevard so he could wait for help. Sheridan’s car was moved out of the street after the water receded.

Rain began about 3 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in St. Louis, causing more flooding throughout the metro area.

“That ground, since it rained so heavily Tuesday, can’t hold as much rain as it would have on Tuesday,” said Lydia Jaja, a meteorologist with the weather service. “So with the rain today it kind of started pooling — it started running off.”

The rain arrived just two days after more than 9 inches of rain fell overnight in St. Louis, setting a record for the highest 24-hour rainfall total on record. The former record was 7.02 inches, set in August 1915.

The flooding Tuesday killed one person in a submerged vehicle near Skinker Boulevard and Enright Avenue, according to the St. Louis Fire Department.

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe signed an executive order this week declaring a state of emergency. That allows state agencies to coordinate directly with local jurisdictions during the recovery effort.

The weather service on Thursday issued six flash flood warnings in St. Louis, Florissant and Chesterfield until 5:45 p.m. and in Oakville and Mehlville until 7:30 p.m. It also issued a warning for Belleville until then.

The St. Louis Fire Department reported more than a dozen motorists were trapped in their vehicles in various areas around St. Louis.

First responders were dispatched to a daycare facility in the 4700 block of Washington Avenue, the department said, after a call reporting multiple people trapped inside the dwelling as water was rising.

Fire department officials strongly warned motorists not to drive through standing or rising water.

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, flash flooding closed Interstate 64 near Hampton Avenue in both directions. MODOT closed eastbound Interstate 70 near Union Boulevard due to flooding along the interstate, but the road has since reopened.

A number of intersections and streets were closed during the storm, St. Louis police said.

    According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, Interstates 55 and 70 were closed in East St. Louis due to flooding. The department is diverting traffic to I-64.
    Residents in East St. Louis and nearby areas in the Metro East were still dealing with the aftermath of the flooding on Wednesday. According to the Belleville News-Democrat, some residents were evacuated to East St. Louis City Hall.

    Mayor Robert Eastern II declared a flood disaster in the city.

    Kavahn Mansouri is the Midwest Newsroom’s investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter:@kavahnmansouri

    Kavahn Mansouri is the Investigative Reporter for the NPR Midwest Newsroom based in St. Louis.
    Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.