City can handle predicted River des Peres crest, official says

City can handle predicted River des Peres crest, official says

ST. LOUIS – The National Weather Service now projects the Mississippi River will crest about three feet below the record high point set in 1993. But a St. Louis official says he’s confident there won’t be serious flooding along the River des Peres in south St. Louis.

“We’re not panicking here,” said Todd Waelterman, executive director of operations for Mayor Lyda Krewson. “The river’s coming up. We know it’s coming up. We have the tools. We know we’re going to do it.”

But Waelterman said the weather still could make a mess of things. “Last week, Mother Nature dumped two inches on us right in the area in a 45-minute period, and we had about 200 homes get water in their basements and had 55 closed.”

The National Weather Service said the river level was 42.38 feet at 3 p.m. Wednesday. It predicted the high would be 46 feet at 3 p.m. Tuesday. That’s about 8/10s of a foot higher than the previous crest level. The record level on August 1, 1993, was 49.58 feet.

“Nobody’s in danger right now. Provided we can get our job done, in the next four to five days, getting these sandbags filled, we hope it’ll work,” Waelterman said.

The city started putting down sandbags on Thursday.

One factor is that the river has been at flood stage for at least 75 days, Waelterman said. 

While the city is maintaining its levees, MSD is working pumps that push the water back into the river. Fortunately, roads on both sides of the River des Peres are higher and there are better pumps, Waelterman said.

The Alabama Avenue Bridge across River des Peres was flooded, and River City Boulevard just north of Broadway was flooded also.  

Meanwhile, to the north, the city is preparing to close the flood gate at Riverview, closing that road off Interstate 270, along the Chain of Rocks. “It’ll take us about two days to get that gate up,” Waelterman said.

12th Ward Alderman Larry Arnowitz, who represents the high-water area, said he was regularly riding along Germania Street and River des Peres and Carondelet boulevards.

“I’m doing what I can, helping people. These basements have been flooded out since last week,” he said.

Arnowitz estimated he had gotten about 900 calls since Friday asking for help.