Shoveling basements and scrambling eggs: St Louis region wrings itself out | Metro

Shoveling basements and scrambling eggs: St Louis region wrings itself out | Metro

ST. LOUIS — The reality of the flood set in for some here on Wednesday. Garbage bags, dumpsters and waterlogged carpets rested on the curbs in the Ellendale neighborhood at the city’s western edge — as they did on so many streets across the region.

Nancy Carr, 74, returned home to totaled cars and a soggy basement. Her family opened windows, started fans and cleared everything out. Rows of bicycles, toys and home equipment were laid neatly on backyard tables. She still didn’t know if insurance would cover any of it.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” she said, tearing up. “I think I’ll make some scrambled eggs.”

The region’s residents cleaned up on Wednesday from a historic rainstorm. They shoveled out sewage-filled basements, tried to start waterlogged cars and cleared piles of downed tree limbs. Officials emerged, too, touring streets underwater just hours prior, and talking to frustrated residents.

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And police announced the region’s second death: a semi-truck driver, found in his truck in Hazelwood, on Ford Lane near Coldwater Creek. 

All told, the region got a record 9 inches of rain on Tuesday, smashing the old mark, set in 1915, by 2 inches. Some cities, like St. Peters, recorded almost 13, doubling previous records. Fire departments rescued more than 400 people across the region. Authorities reported the first death, a man in his 60s — who they still hadn’t identified on Wednesday — killed when his car submerged at Skinker Boulevard and Enright Avenue in St. Louis near the Delmar Loop.

Around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Barbara Jones of University City was taking stock of her front yard on North Drive. Floodwaters had dumped a strange collection of unknown neighbors’ belongings: a wooden cabinet upended near her driveway; a black rug snaked around a tree; papers and rubbish.

“Not with your hands, Troy!” Jones shouted to a relative who bent over to pick up trash. “That’s germs. That’s sewer stuff.”

Shoveling out basements

Jones had a game plan: Get gloves and begin the cleanup. She had no way to get to work as a home health care aide — her car wouldn’t start after being swamped in the storm.

North Drive and Cabanne Avenue resembled the final moments of a demolition derby, with cars pushed into yards and knocked around. A truck belonging to the Jones family had floated east a half block. So did an industrial dumpster, which had careened into a parked Nissan sedan.

At the height of Tuesday’s storm, Jones had knee-deep water in her basement. By Wednesday morning, the water had receded and left behind a sticky residue. Jones said she would sort out sopping wet clothing to see what could be salvaged, and toss out a freezer that had its motor destroyed by rising water. 

She had been on the phone with her car insurance company, and called FEMA twice already to try to get advice on cleanup. Leaders in St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jefferson City declared states of emergency, which could lead to federal aid down the line.

Restoration service crews from other cities were coming to help local franchises. It could take more than a week to get everyone back to normal. 

The rainstorms and flooding affected people on a “hurricane-type level, whereas a tornado is more path-driven,” said Justin Wendling, director of business development for Servpro Team Wolfe, a franchise that covers St. Louis, the Metro East, Bridgeton and Florissant.

“Sometimes, if there is a big hurricane that hits the coasts, we’ve been known to pack up our semis and go down and help,” he said. 

‘I’m scared to death’

Business owners and residents along Main Street in Old Town St. Peters were struggling on Tuesday to come to terms with the magnitude of their flood damage.

At Michael’s Flooring Outlet at 116 Main Street, owner Michael Reynolds, 55, lost hundreds of thousands in inventory and even more in expensive machinery after his storeroom and warehouse flooded with 2 feet of water. With supply chain delays and inflation, he said it was going to be a big hit.

“I’m scared to death,” he said, watching his employees cleaning up the warehouse.

Reynolds said he hoped the city or state would come through with some money to help businesses survive. Employers like him provide jobs and work to keep the city thriving, he said. Surely they could pay back the favor.

Stacy Stelzer, 50, started to cry Wednesday as she thought about having to pick herself up again.

In the past two years, she’d lost a longtime job, dealt with the brutal murder of her daughter and taken over care of her two young grandchildren. On Tuesday, all of her family’s cars were lost. The basement of her rental house flooded. She lost all of her clothes and her beloved Halloween decorations.

Around 11 a.m., a car arrived with bleach, paper towels and other cleaning supplies donated by a local moms group. She said a friend had set up a GoFund Me crowd-funding account for her.

But Stelzer said she still wasn’t sure how she was going to replace the cars or how long it would take to clean up.

“If anybody needs a break,” she said, “It’s me.”

Forecasters expect more rain to come. The “unsettled weather” here will likely last through Thursday, forecasters said, with several more rounds of showers and thunderstorms.

Erin Heffernan of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

Streets still underwater in some Metro East neighborhoods. Residents are frustrated.

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Top five daily rainfall records

Date Year set Inches
July 26 2022 9.07
Aug. 20 1915 6.85
May 16 1995 5.59
Dec. 26 2015 4.87
April 11 1979 4.79

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