Strong rains lead to pockets of flash flooding

Saturday, May 2, 2009

ST. LOUIS -- Several Missouri communities near creeks dealt with flash flooding Friday, with scattered reports of some tense moments, but no injuries or widespread damage.

In Stoddard County in Southeast Missouri, two creeks overtopped. The Dexter Creek rose unexpectedly in the city Friday morning, prompting employees at the Riddle & Son lumber yard to sandbag part of the five-acre property. A recently delivered load of lumber floated away, and police stopped someone who tried to make off with it, said Riddle officer manager Kay Ables.

A few inches of water got into a building, but even customers lent a hand helping with the cleanup.

"It'll recede a little bit, it rains, and then we can see it coming up again. We're not out of the woods yet," Ables said.

In Puxico, another small creek flooded, surrounding five homes and a trailer. Emergency responders in boats brought one man and his son to dry land so they could stay with relatives. "The others said, 'Oh, we'll ride it out,'" said Stoddard County emergency management director John Prance.

He said the homes in the area are elevated, so he did not think the residences would flood.

Heavy rains are expected in parts of the state through the weekend, prompting officials to encourage residents to pay close attention to flash flood warnings as they pop up. They said it was too soon to know how the weekend rains might affect future river rises.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller said stormy weather is the result of a front that has "been meandering" across the Missouri and Arkansas border in recent days.

"There will be waves of low pressure along that front that will lead to more rain," he said, with the area from Interstate 44 and south across the Ozarks expected to receive from 3 to 5 inches of rainfall into Monday.

Forecasts say the Bootheel could get 6 inches or more.

Communities along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in the northeast and north-central parts of the state, which saw rains earlier this week, experienced mild to moderate flooding Friday.

In northeast Missouri, firefighters from several departments rescued two people carpooling to work Thursday after their car became stranded in a flash flood. Emergency responders arrived to the scene about 15 miles southwest of Hannibal to find a car surrounded by fast-moving water stretching several hundred yards.

Hannibal fire chief Tim Carter said the water was too shallow for a rescue boat, so a crew drove a firetruck into the water to reach them.

The people in the car, Robert Fohey of Palmyra and Mildred Chaney of Shelbina, declined medical treatment.

Firefighters also checked on residents of about 20 homes and trailers in Hannibal when Bear Creek experienced flash flooding Thursday, but reported no injuries.

Some county roads in the Hannibal area have flooded, and the city put two of its five flood gates -- a protective measure -- into place Friday. The Mississippi River expected to crest at 21 feet Monday in Hannibal, about 5 feet above flood stage. The river would need to be more than 10 feet higher for it to be a concern in an area with a levee.

"Everyone's still got access to the riverfront and the Mark Twain riverboat and all of that," said John Hark, emergency management director for Hannibal and Marion County.

Officials in other Mississippi River towns and cities, like Clarksville and Cape Girardeau, were monitoring river levels and rainfalls, but don't currently anticipate anything like last year's flooding.

In southwest Missouri, the Missouri Department of Transportation said runoff from heavy rain forced the closing of several roads. Flooding was reported along Flat Creek in Barry County and at the Little North Fork River in Douglas County. No injuries were reported.

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