O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Record rainfall caused widespread flash flooding across the St. Louis area early Tuesday, closing multiple roadways and prompting rescues from vehicles and homes. Damage across the St. Louis region was widespread after a massive downpour dropped more than 11 inches of rain in parts of St. Charles County and up to 10 inches elsewhere in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
By 8 a.m., 8.3 inches of rain had fallen at Lambert Airport, demolishing the previous daily record of 6.85 inches set on Aug. 20, 1915, when remnants of the Galveston, Texas, hurricane moved north to St. Louis. Forecasters expected Tuesday’s rain to wrap up by late morning, but more storms were likely through the rest of the week.
There were no immediate reports of injuries to people, but several puppies drowned when water got into a building at Stray Paws Adoptables, a stray dog rescue operation in St. Peters. Firefighters in boats were able to rescue other dogs from the building.
Firefighters across the St. Louis region were busy with water rescues. A section of Interstate 70 was closed in St. Peters, and many other roadways were flooded. Some vehicles were completely submerged. The Missouri State Highway Patrol on Twitter urged drivers to avoid I-70. Some motorists took to social media to report being stranded for several hours. At one point, sections of interstates 64, 55, and 44 also were closed in the St. Louis area.
In the city of St. Louis, the fire department rescued people from 18 homes in the same general area after floodwaters made it into houses. The fire department said on Twitter that six people and six dogs were rescued by boat, while 15 others declined to leave their homes.
In the St. Louis County town of Brentwood, residents were forced to evacuate when Deer Creek overflowed. Rising waters also threatened homes in Ladue, one of the wealthiest cities in Missouri. Flooding was so bad that the iconic Gateway Arch closed for the day.
National Weather Service meteorologist Marshall Pfahler said a storm that moved into the St. Louis area around midnight stalled and kept pouring water over the same relatively narrow band. “You have this swath of up to 10-inch amounts, and a county or two south they had a trace or even less,” he said.
The remarkable rainfall followed a period of extended drought in the region. The ground was rock-hard before Tuesday morning and Pfahler said that may have played a small role in the flash flooding. A bigger factor, he said, was that the storm hit a metro area with a lot of concrete and asphalt, rather than grassy areas that could absorb the moisture more readily.
While the St. Louis region got the worst of it, other places were soaked, too. The central Missouri town of Mexico received more than 6 inches of rain. Similar rainfall totals were reported in parts of southern Illinois.