Hurricane Ike causes heavy rain, flash floods across Missouri

Sunday, September 14, 2008 | 9:01 p.m. CDT; updated 8:03 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 15, 2008

ST. LOUIS — The remnants of Hurricane Ike brought heavy winds and torrential rains to Missouri on Sunday, causing flash floods and raising new concerns about swelling rivers, including parts of the Mississippi and the Missouri.

The heavy rainfall caused many creeks to overflow their banks, making roads across Columbia impassable and flooding some homes and businesses. In Boone County, flooding closed 28 roads on Saturday night and Sunday, and rescue crews were busy responding to numerous reports of stranded cars.

One woman was found dead Sunday evening in Hominy Creek after a 16-hour search near Clark Lane. The woman, identified as Michelle Runkle, 21, of Columbia, was swept into the creek after attempting to help rescue a man who was clinging to a bridge in the swollen stream. The man had tried to cross a bridge overrun by swiftly moving water and became stranded when his car submerged.

Trees were down in parts of St. Louis, and other sections of the state got up to 7 inches of rain, accompanied by winds that spiked as high as 60 mph. At one point, about 60,000 customers of AmerenUE were without power in St. Louis city, St. Louis County and Jefferson County. Emergency workers reported several water rescues in the St. Louis area, and a woman in St. Louis County was injured when a tree struck by lightning hit her home.

Washington, Mo., got 4 1/2 inches of rain, and parts of Knox County in northeast Missouri got 5 inches. Wood River, Ill., just across the Mississippi from St. Louis, got nearly 7 inches, as did sections of southwest Missouri, where several roads, including some state highways, were closed.

"We've got flash flooding all over the place," National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said.

Sanborn Field reported 4.44 inches of rain fell on Saturday and Sunday in Columbia.

Also a concern was the impact the rain had on rivers, especially the Meramec, the Missouri and the Mississippi.

Fuchs said the Meramec was expected to reach major flood stage at Valley Park and Arnold, near St. Louis. The situation at Arnold was especially concerning because the Mississippi was expected to back up there, causing the Meramec to reach an expected crest of 42 feet on Wednesday — 18 feet above flood stage.

"There's a lot of homes that could be affected," Fuchs said. "It could be a big problem."

The Mississippi is expected to crest at 41 feet in St. Louis on Thursday, 11 feet above flood stage, potentially causing problems in an industrial area north of the city and shutting down the street in front of the Gateway Arch.

Fuchs said the Mississippi is expected to reach moderate flood levels later this week from Hannibal south to St. Louis and major flood levels from Ste. Genevieve as far south as Cape Girardeau.

The Missouri will also reach major flood level at St. Charles, potentially closing a section of Missouri 94 and threatening some homes. The crest of 36 1/2 feet — 11 1/2 feet above flood stage — is predicted for Wednesday.

Amtrak also said Sunday it had canceled several trains running through Missouri and that passengers could expect delays on other lines because of flooding.

Doug Cramer, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Springfield, said several rivers in southwest Missouri also are expected to flood, including the Marmaton, the Big Piney and the Little Osage.

On Sunday, the more immediate concern was flash flooding. Some residents were evacuated from low-lying areas of Florissant in St. Louis County and High Ridge in Jefferson County. Part of Interstate 70 was closed in St. Louis, and water over the roadway caused problems on interstates 55, 44 and 64 near St. Louis; several smaller roads were impassable.

By midday Sunday, flash flood warnings were issued in parts of southern Missouri, and the Missouri Bootheel was under a tornado watch.

A 30-foot tree was blown down in Ozark, and a boat dock at Kimberling Marina broke loose around 3:30 a.m.

Missourian reporters Amanda Peterson and Catherine Martin contributed to this report.

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