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Massive Floods Threaten To Landlock Commuters Near St. Louis

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Major flooding has taken over another interstate in southeast Missouri, and some commuters are running out of options. People who live south of St. Louis are watching and waiting while river levels keep rising. Wayne Pratt of member station St. Louis Public Radio reports.

WAYNE PRATT, BYLINE: After closing part of one interstate out of St. Louis earlier this week, flooding claimed another major roadway today. Southbound lanes of Interstate 55 closed, and Missouri Department of Transportation engineer Tom Blair says it may shutter northbound lanes this afternoon. That will leave St. Louis cut off from most of its southern neighbors.

TOM BLAIR: If we can get them open, we're going to get them open. And we're going inspect and get them open as quick as we can. But everything we're seeing - the big, big roads that we're talking about, many of them are going to be staying close possibly through Friday.

PRATT: Because of the uncertainty, staff at St. Anthony's Medical Center in Fenton are staying overnight. The cause of all this commotion is the Meramec River. It's flowed over its banks in two towns in suburban St. Louis, causing damage to hundreds of homes and businesses.

But in Arnold, about 20 miles south of St. Louis, they're still waiting to see if it hits an expected 46 feet. For some residents in Arnold, it's not just commuting that's a problem, many like Larry Musick fear that they will have to leave.

LARRY MUSICK: They're getting ready to start evacuating us and shut our power off, they're talking, if it makes it to the road because we only got one way in, one way out to our apartments. So we're probably going to get ready to experience some good flooding here. So we may have to start packing some stuff up and going to some friend's house or find another location to stay.

PRATT: Meanwhile, neighbors are racing against the rising river to protect their homes. Dozens of volunteers have been sandbagging along the road just south of the swelling river since the weekend. Ted Evans is driving an ATV carrying sandbags to the frontlines. He's done this before in 1993 and again in late 2015.

TED EVANS: We got everything out of our house, basement-wise and everything. We're just pumping the sewer lines to help save these houses and all these houses right here because they all flooded in 2015.

PRATT: Meanwhile, more rain is in the forecast. For NPR News, I'm Wayne Pratt in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.