Metro-East News

Motorist rescued after car is swept into high water near Edwardsville; residents evacuated as floodwaters rise

A pedestrian waits in the rain for a bus Sunday as traffic passes on Illinois 159 in Fairview Heights.
A pedestrian waits in the rain for a bus Sunday as traffic passes on Illinois 159 in Fairview Heights. snagy@bnd.com

Flooded roads, soggy basements and overflowing storm drains plagued the metro-east as a heavy rainfall soaked the region after Christmas, and at least 11 people have died in Illinois and Missouri as some towns enter emergency status and residents are evacuated.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Sunday for Madison, St. Clair, Monroe, Bond, Macoupin and Montgomery counties, and much of Missouri. The warning is in effect until 3 p.m. Monday. Meanwhile, a flash flood watch remains in effect until 6 p.m. Monday for the metro-east.

Rainfall in the St. Louis metropolitan area had been observed anywhere from 5 to 8 inches by Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service, with another 2 to 4 inches expected by the time the rain tapers off. The deluge drove up the total St. Louis-area rainfall for 2015 over 58 inches, beating the previous record of 57.96 inches set in 2008.

Near Pontoon Beach, three mobile home parks were in the process of being evacuated Sunday night.

Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan confirmed that Valley Green mobile home park on Lake Drive is flooded. Approximately 75 to 100 families are being evacuated by boats, because the water is up to the steps of their trailers and they are no longer safe, Dunstan said.

Two other mobile home parks are being evacuated via buses because Ameren will have to turn off the electricity, Dunstan said. “They have a substation there that’s about to go underwater, so they have to turn off the electricity,” Dunstan said. Affected are six families in Stone Meadow park on Pontoon Road and seven families in Sunny Shores park on West Chain of Rocks Road, both near Granite City.

Dunstan said Madison County Transit buses are evacuating the families to shelters if they have nowhere else to go. The American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri has opened a shelter at Nameoki United Methodist Church in Granite City as of 7 p.m. Sunday night. Meanwhile, he said the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies are doing increased patrols to make sure there is no looting or other illegal activity.

“It’s a team effort down here,” he said. “Hopefully there won’t be too much damage.”

Dunstan said this is a different kind of flooding than that experienced in Madison County during the historic flood of 1993. “The ‘93 flood was more of a flood on the river that came up to the levees; this is more like flash flooding,” Dunstan said. “I’ve never in my life heard of Route 40 closing, and it’s closed now.”

Alton, which experienced significantly flooding in the 1993 flood, will begin sandbagging at 9 a.m. Monday, Dunstan said, and they are watching the levees that protect much of Madison County’s territory. “The levees from all indications are fine,” Dunstan said. “The rivers won’t even crest until Thursday.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Edwardsville Fire Department assisted the rescue of a motorist whose car had been swept into high water off Marine Road outside the city limits. “The water was just deep enough that he couldn’t get out of the car,” said Edwardsville Fire Chief Rick Welle. The motorist was rescued and was not injured, he said.

But people should be cautious anywhere there is a larger creek, Welle said. “I drove out I-70 to look at Silver Creek, and it’s roaring,” Welle said. “It’s really coming through... The creeks will be really swollen, and it won’t take much for them to come out of their banks and create problems.”

In Missouri, at least six people have died as heavy rain has pushed creeks and rivers out of their banks. Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long said that six people died in two separate incidents overnight when cars drove onto flooded roadways. The Missouri State Highway Patrol told KYTV that authorities also had recovered the body of a driver from the creek in Greene County. Barry County emergency officials say crews rescued people from 29 vehicles stranded by rising waters, and several other people had to be evacuated from homes.

In Southern Illinois, Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon reported that three adults and two children drowned in Southern Illinois after the vehicle they were riding in was swept away and sank in a rain-swollen creek. Cannon said the swift-moving East Fork Creek carried the car off a low-water bridge near the town of Patoka, about 60 miles east of St. Louis, about 7:30 p.m. Saturday. It became lodged 150 to 200 feet downstream, but shortly after the first firefighter arrived on the scene, the car became dislodged and sank.

Cannon said dive teams recovered the car from the water several hours later and the bodies of the victims from the car. The names of the victims were not immediately released. Cannon says the vehicle was traveling from Kentucky to Minnesota.

Welle reiterated the message most emergency departments have for drivers: “Don’t try to drive through a flooded road. You don’t know how deep it’ll get, and most people don’t realize how swift the water is,” Welle said. “Six inches of water is enough to sweep someone off their feet.”

Most flood deaths occur in vehicles, so if motorists encounter a flooded road, they should turn around and get to higher ground, then report the flooded road to law enforcement, authorities said. In addition, the soaked ground can loosen tree roots, and on at least one instance, a large tree fell after the ground became too wet to hold it.

Power outages also took place in multiple locations, with some traffic lights temporarily out of service. Law enforcement officials reminded all drivers that a dead traffic light is to be treated like a stop sign, with a mandatory stop and alternating traffic through the intersection.

All rivers and streams are expected to have some flooding, according to the National Weather Service, with “major and historic” flood levels possible. The Mississippi may crest at its second-highest level since the flood of 1993, according to news reports.

A thunderstorm with heavy rain is expected Sunday night, with wind gusts as high as 37 mph. On Monday, heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected, followed by showers after 3 p.m. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph. A high temperature near 50 and low around 36 are predicted. There is also a 20 percent chance of showers before midnight Monday.

The rain will likely stop Tuesday, when it is expected to be mostly cloudy, with a high near 40 and low around 30. By Wednesday, it is expected to be partly sunny. The high temperature will be near 40, and the low will be around 24.

In addition, the National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory from 9 p.m. Sunday to 1 p.m. Monday. Strong northeast winds are expected to hit 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph, which can make driving difficult, especially on north-south-oriented roads and for higher-profile vehicles, and can blow loose objects such as trash cans and lawn furniture across roads.

▪  St. Clair County Emergency Management reports that roads flooded or closed include: Amelia Drive, Carriel Drive and Lorraine Drive in Cahokia; Forest Boulevard in Washington Park; 3200 block of Collinsville Road and the intersection of Kingshighway and Maryland in Fairmont City; Illinois 159 and Probst Road in Hecker; and Bluff Road in East St. Louis. North Charles Street in Belleville was temporarily closed after a tree fell partially blocking the roadway, and U.S. 50 at Silver Creek is closed as well.

▪  The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that the following roads are closed due to flooding: Marine-St. Jacob Road at Silver Creek; Marine Road from Lake to Hunter School roads; US 40 from Triad Road to Schaeffer Road, with a marked detour; Illinois 159 north of Illinois 143 in Edwardsville; South 6th Street in Roxana; East Chain of Roads Road at Sand Road; and Chain of Rocks Road from Illinois 157 to Illinois 111.

▪  Pontoon Beach residents are being offered voluntary evacuation through the Pontoon Beach Police Department, according to the village Facebook page. Sand is available for residents in need at the Nameoki Township Road Department at 4250 Illinois 162; Long Lake Fire Department at 4113 Pontoon Road; and the Pontoon Beach Water District offices. Sandbags are in short supply, but a pallet of sandbags from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was expected late Sunday.

▪  Calhoun County has closed Highway 1, which means the Brussels Ferry is now closed. Drivers should use Hardin Lift Bridge instead, according to IDOT.

▪  Flood gates on Powder Mill Road in East Alton have been closed due to heavy rain and flooding. Drivers are asked to use alternate routes for the time being, according to the Wood River Drainage and Levee District.

▪  The Troy Police Department reports that both lanes of U.S. 40 are now under water, barricaded, and closed at the Middle School. Edwardville Fire Department reports floodwaters over Illinois 159 near Illinois 143 and Old Carpenter Road northeast of Edwardsville.

▪  In St. Louis, Metrolink Blue Line trains were not operating between Shrewsbury and Forest Park stations on Sunday morning. Metro buses temporarily carried passengers between stations until the tracks could be cleared. Normal service was restored about 1 p.m. Commuters should consult the latest updates from Metro St. Louis at http://metrostlouis.org/PlanYourTrip/RiderAlerts.aspx.

Return to BND.com for more about the weather as information becomes available.

Click here for the detailed local forecast.

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