Burst of rain floods low Cape streets

Saturday, August 12, 2006
Ty's Hawaiian Sno appeared to be an island Friday as the parking lot of Cape Girardeau's Town Plaza was flooded by heavy rains. (Don Frazier)

The police responded to 38 traffic accidents or assistance calls Friday afternoon.

A number of low-lying streets around Cape Girardeau looked like canals Friday as 2.7 inches of rain were dumped on the area in about two hours, according to the public works department.

The department closed off 26 intersections or sections of streets. By 4:30 p.m. all the streets had been reopened, but in the meantime a number of motorists found themselves in trouble.

The Cape Girardeau Police Department responded to 38 traffic accidents or assistance calls between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Several involved vehicles stuck in rising water. There were no reported injuries.

Assistant public works director Steve Cook said the city's drainage system did as well as could be expected under the circumstances.

"In my experience, that's kind of a high number of street closings, but you get a rain event like that and it's going to happen," he said. "Everything in place worked pretty well, but it's only designed to handle so much water. It's not designed to handle 2.7 inches that fast."

Cook said it wasn't drainage but rather geography that caused most of the problems. Streets in low-lying areas took the brunt of the storm.

More than 2 feet of water accumulated in a depressed section of road on Mount Auburn Road near its intersection with William Street. A car which stalled out attempting to cross sat immobile in the water. A police car sat on higher ground flashing its lights and allowed motorists to ford the moving water at their own risk. Many did so.

"If they get stuck there, they stay there," warned the officer at the scene.

Cape Girardeau was hit harder than surrounding areas by the wet weather. The Cape Girardeau Regional Airport reported 0.5 inches of rain, and the Jackson Fire Department reported 0.1 inches.

The Town Plaza also experienced flooding and found itself on the wrong side of the gradient. About 2 feet of water collected in some areas of the parking lot, causing shoppers to wade into the mess to move their vehicles.

It also surrounded snow-cone stand Ty's Summer Sno. But co-owner Rachel Zahner said she wasn't worried.

"The water was about an inch away from our door, but we have a pretty tight seal," she said. "We never closed, we stay open rain, shine or flood. Our front steps and our garbage can floated away, but that was about the worst of it."

Others in the area found cover and enjoyed the show. Amonell Welter of Oran, Mo., and daughter Janell Hinkebein of Jackson, who were out shopping Friday afternoon, sat on a bench under an awning at Town Plaza.

"We've had people drive by and offer us a ride to get to our car, but we're staying here until it lets up," Welter said. "I'm just enjoying watching everything go by. It's quite a show."

They were also meeting people.

"We sit here talking, and people come by and sit down to talk with us. It's pretty nice on a rainy day," Hinkebein said.

On William Street, the water was so deep cars driving at more than a crawl sprayed waves of up to 8 feet of brown water into the Town Plaza lot. The waves traveled far enough to hit the windows of the snow-cone shop and caused a watermelon peddler to pack up his wares.

A car was abandoned on Bloomfield Road near Christine Street apparently unable to move in rising waters. Bloomfield Road was blocked off by the city public works department for more than an hour between Plaza Way and Kingshighway.

Cape Girardeau fire chief Rick Ennis said drivers should take extra precautions when navigating in wet conditions.

"I would remind people when there is a flooded street not to try and cross it," he said. "I would say any level of standing water is dangerous and definitely if it's up to the bottom of car. Then it can get into the engine and cause trouble."

tgreaney@semissourian.com

336-6611, extension 245

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