Local leaders assess damage after heavy rains, flooding

News-DemocratApril 19, 2013 

Local leaders spent Friday assessing the damage left behind by Thursday's flash floods that inundated area roads and fields.

Scott Air Force Base personnel fanned out across the sprawling air base to examine damage from heavy rains and flooding that turned parking lots into lakes.

Meanwhile residents of East St. Louis who were forced out of their homes by rising waters were back in their homes, and Belleville leaders were checking for damage left by floods that swept away manhole covers, flooded city parks and closed roads across the area.

The air base received 5.11 inches of rain in a 12-hour period, according to Ben Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The city of Belleville had 4.99 inches of rain.

A preliminary assessment at Scott showed Thursday's flood waters damaged drywall, furniture and carpeting at Hangar 3, a training area for pilots of the C-21 small passenger jet.

The water in that building is at about "boot level," with several aircraft still parked in that building, according to Karen Petitt, a spokeswoman for the 375th Air Mobility Wing headquarters.

Also sustaining damage was Building P40, a newly-renovated historical building whose basement was flooded, requiring the replacement of some drywall and carpeting. There were no electrical or computer problems reported, according to Petitt.

There were no reports of damage to base aircraft, Petitt said.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said most of the high water that filled a trio of city parks, chased the staff and the four-legged guests of the St. Clair County Animal Control building and made several roads impassible had mostly drained away by Friday.

"We're very fortunate no one was hurt," Eckert said. "We got a whole lot of water and it was a scary situation for a while there.

"We're still checking roads and bridges to make sure the high volume and velocity or water didn't hurt anything," Eckert said. "North End and Hough parks flooded badly and Bicentennial Park had a whole lot of water through it. But, other than rutting, it looks like there is no other major damage. They're just soggy. Other than that, we're cleaning up muddy streets and checking catch basins and cleaning them. One neighborhood where people's basements flooded residents set out damaged furniture and boxes and we're going to send over someone to pick that up."

Eckert said he fielded plenty of angry phone calls from residents who complained that their basements were full of water.

"As hard as we work on the sewers, when you get five inches of rain in a period of a few hours, the sewer just can't handle it," Eckert said.

In East St. Louis, the high water that came as a result of flash flooding earlier in the day Thursday had receded by 9:30 p.m. and displaced families moved back into their homes.

Mayor Alvin L. Parks praised the efforts of city street and emergency crews during what he called an "extraordinary" situation.

"The crews were able to get to everyone who needed to get out of their homes," Parks said. No injuries were reported.

Parks thanked the American Red Cross, which supplied 20 cots and some snacks, and residents also donated food. He said that at least 10 homes near the Clyde C. Jordan Center at 67th and State streets were flooded.

"Also, several homes with basements in the area were damaged by the water and in many cases water is still there. But, the good news is that no one had to stay overnight at the Clyde C. Jordan Senior Center," Parks said.

Parks said the Harding Ditch needs to be dredged again and plans to discuss this with the Metro-East Sanitary District.

"Clearly it needs to be dredged. They did it 12 to 14 years ago and it made a difference to the Parkside area and the area near the (Jordan) Center," Parks said.

As of Friday evening, U.S. 50 over Silver Creek west of Lebanon, was still under water and remained closed.

All gates but the Shiloh Gate at Scott were closed because of flooding Thursday had reopened Friday. Flooding around the golf course was extensive, according to base personnel. In Belleville, roads flooded Thursday were reopened an workers checked them for signs of washouts.

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