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America's floodgates open: Three 1,000-year rains in a week have left at least 38 dead

America’s floodgates broke open last week after three once-in-a-thousand-year rain storms left 38 people dead across the midwestern United States.

The massive flooding began on July 25, when record-breaking rainfall drenched St. Louis, Missouri trapping cars in more than 10 inches of flood water, closing roads and causing at least one death.

Just a few days later, on July 28, rural parts of eastern Kentucky were flooded after the National Weather Service received reports of up to 14 inches of rainfall.

At least 37 people died in the catastrophic storm as of Monday, as dozens were still reported missing after bridges collapsed and houses were torn from their foundations.

And as residents in Illinois were still reeling from the storm last Monday, which caused an estimated $10 million in damages and economic impact in East St. Louis, the southern part of the state was drenched by eight to 12 inches of rainfall in just 12 hours from Monday night into Tuesday morning.

All three incidents are considered once in 1,000 year rain events because the amount of rain that fell during such a short amount of time has only a 0.1 percent chance of happening in any given year.

But experts now warn that these devastating storms may become even more common as the Earth’s average temperature continues to increase.

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: Brian Kreitner, looked down at broken pieces of glass in the flood water after a storm dumped more than 10 inches of rainfall on the city last week

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: Brian Kreitner, looked down at broken pieces of glass in the flood water after a storm dumped more than 10 inches of rainfall on the city last week

EAST ST LOUIS, ILLINOIS: Gateway Pet Guardians used a boat to help pet owners rescue two cats and a dog from their flooded homes. The pets had been trapped since the homeowners were forced out due to the rising flood waters

EAST ST LOUIS, ILLINOIS: Gateway Pet Guardians used a boat to help pet owners rescue two cats and a dog from their flooded homes. The pets had been trapped since the homeowners were forced out due to the rising flood waters

EASTERN KENTUCKY: An aerial view provided by the Tennessee Army National Guard shows the extent of the devastation in the state after the National Weather Service received reports of up to 14 inches of rainfall

EASTERN KENTUCKY: An aerial view provided by the Tennessee Army National Guard shows the extent of the devastation in the state after the National Weather Service received reports of up to 14 inches of rainfall

The extreme weather began last week when a 100-year weather record was obliterated in St Louis after more than eight inches of torrential rain drenched the city last Monday night into Tuesday. 

According to the National Weather Service, 8.81 inches of rain fell on the city from midnight Monday to 9am Tuesday morning after the thunderstorms eased across the area by mid-morning — beating the city’s old record of 6.85″, which was previously set on August 20th 1915.

Some parts of the city even recorded more than 11 inches of rain, with parts of St Charles County recording 10 inches.

One person died in the powerful storm after he was left stranded in his car and drowned in about eight and a half inches of water.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said Monday that officers were dispatched to the intersection of Rosedale and Enright Avenues just before 10am on July 26, and when they arrived they found a good Samaritan pulling a man from his car.

But the man, who was later identified as 60-year-old Kumsa Heyi, was pronounced dead on the scene.

Authorities also reported that several puppies drowned when the water got into a building at Stray Paws Adoptables, a stray dog rescue operation in St Peters, but firefighters were able to rescue other dogs from the building.

The St Louis Fire Department also rescued people from 18 homes in the same general area after floodwaters entered the homes, and said on Twitter that six people and six dogs were rescued by boat.

Fifteen other people declined to leave their homes.

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: A man bravely helped two people walk through the flood waters after their car became submerged in the storm last week

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: A man bravely helped two people walk through the flood waters after their car became submerged in the storm last week

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: Santo Albright, of Fenton, tried to run to his car as the heavy rain  began

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: Santo Albright, of Fenton, tried to run to his car as the heavy rain  began

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: According to the National Weather Service, 8.81 inches of rain fell on the city from midnight Monday to 9am Tuesday morning after the thunderstorms eased across the area by mid-morning. Some parts wound up recording more than 11 inches of rain

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: According to the National Weather Service, 8.81 inches of rain fell on the city from midnight Monday to 9am Tuesday morning after the thunderstorms eased across the area by mid-morning. Some parts wound up recording more than 11 inches of rain

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: St Louis firefighters helped a group of adults and students off a bus that got stuck in the rising water

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: St Louis firefighters helped a group of adults and students off a bus that got stuck in the rising water

Other residents posted alarming videos and photos of submerged cars and flooded basements on social media as the flood levels continued to rise last week.

Images of Forest Park DeBaliviere Metrolink station in St Louis showed the tracks and platforms completely under water – with just half of the information boards and steps still visible. 

Interstate 70 east of Mid Rivers Mall Drive was also rendered completely impassable by the flash flooding, and in the St. Louis County town of Brentwood, residents were forced to evacuate when Deer Creek overflowed.

The rising waters also threatened homes in Ladau, one of the wealthiest cities in Missouri, the Associated Press reports, and the flooding became so bad that the iconic Gateway Arch had to close. 

The city is now facing another flash flood, with a warning in effect until 11.45am Thursday, covering about half a million people in the communities of Kirkwood and Overland, CNN reports.

Between two to four inches of rain had already fallen in the area Thursday morning, with rain pounding the region at rates of one to three inches per hour as wind gusts reached up to 60mph.

Overnight, authorities reported that creeks in the area were once again rising, and had exceeded the levels they were at last week.

The flood waters swamped Covered Bridge RV Park near the Saline Creek, according to FOX 2 News, and rescuers there went door to door Wednesday night to make sure everyone got out safely.

‘I came down here around 10.30pm to keep an eye on it because I knew the water was coming up quick, owner Phil Tracy said. ‘It was raining hard and might come up quick, and sure enough by 11.30pm it started creeping into the park, and then by 12am, it was in the park pretty bad.

‘We went around, knocked on everyone’s doors and just let them know what was happening and try to get everyone to start moving and at least get themselves and their vehicle out.’

Down the road, FOX 2 reports, first responders had to use boats to access the free people stuck in their homes — but the water was rushing so fast that the first boat that was deployed had to return to drier land to get a bigger motor. 

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: Lynn Hartke looked over his possessions following the record-breaking flooding last week

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: Lynn Hartke looked over his possessions following the record-breaking flooding last week

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: The St Louis Fire Department also rescued people from 18 homes in the same general area after floodwaters entered the homes

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: The St Louis Fire Department also rescued people from 18 homes in the same general area after floodwaters entered the homes

EASTERN KENTUCKY: In Kentucky,  flooding last Thursday left 37 people dead after it overflowed creeks and rivers

EASTERN KENTUCKY: In Kentucky,  flooding last Thursday left 37 people dead after it overflowed creeks and rivers

EASTERN KENTUCKY: Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing in the state as cellphone service remains down

EASTERN KENTUCKY: Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing in the state as cellphone service remains down

EASTERN KENTUCKY: Rescuers carried a woman to a US Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter during the rescue efforts

EASTERN KENTUCKY: Rescuers carried a woman to a US Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter during the rescue efforts

In Kentucky, meanwhile, flooding last Thursday left 37 people dead after it overflowed creeks and rivers. 

Bridges in the Appalachian region collapsed, isolating communities as homes were torn from their foundation as mudslides poured into the valleys.

Some areas in eastern Kentucky reported receiving more than eight inches (20cm) of rain within 24 hours.

The water level of the North Fork of the Kentucky River at Whitesburg rose to a staggering 20 feet (6.09m) within hours, well above its previous record of 14.7 feet (4.4m).

On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted that the death toll ‘has risen to 37’ after they remained unaccounted for for five days, and on Sunday the Federal Emergency Management Authority announced that another 37 people were still missing.

Beshear has since predicted bodies will continue to be found ‘for weeks,’ and suggested many of those who are still unaccounted for may be located when cellphone service resumes.

‘This is one of the most devastating, deadly floods that we have seen in our history… And at a time that we’re trying to dig out, it’s raining,’ he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

‘We’re going to work to go door to door, work to find, again, as many people as we can. We’re even going to work through the rain. But the weather is complicating it.’

He added: ‘We’re going to be finding bodies for weeks, many of them swept hundreds of yards, maybe a quarter mile-plus from where they were lost.’ 

But some areas in the mountainous region are still inaccessible following the flooding in the state’s east that turned roads into rivers, washed out bridges and swept away houses in a region that was already suffering from grinding poverty, driven by the decline of the coal industry that was the heart of its economy, taking everything from people who could least afford it.

‘It wiped out areas where people didn’t have that much to begin with,’ Beshear said.

President Joe Biden has issued a disaster declaration for the Kentucky flooding, allowing federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. 

EASTERN KENTUCKY:  A man is seen being rescued from flooding by the crew of the US Army National Guard

EASTERN KENTUCKY:  A man is seen being rescued from flooding by the crew of the US Army National Guard

EASTERN KENTUCKY: One woman was placed on a stretcher upon exiting a helicopter following her rescue

EASTERN KENTUCKY: One woman was placed on a stretcher upon exiting a helicopter following her rescue

And in Illinois, as officials are still trying to clean up from the storm that slammed East St Louis last week, southern areas were once again soaked Monday night into Tuesday.

Some areas received eight to 12 inches of rain in less than 12 hours, according to the Washington Post and the  area south of Newton recorded 14 inches.

Even after the storm seemed to have dissipated, it reappeared around sunrise on Tuesday morning, drifting back over the hardest hit areas.

It then continued to rain through midday with flash flood warnings extending into the afternoon, dropping at least two inches of rain per hour on the state.

During that time, the National Weather Service office in Lincoln received about 20 flash flooding reports in roads and intersections.

It also caused a secondary dam in Washington County to overflow as minor flooding was reported at several rivers.

Nearly 30,000 customers were without power on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker declared a disaster proclamation, but admitted he does not know if the flooding caused enough damage for Biden to issue a federal disaster proclamation for the area, even though East St Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III has asked for federal assistance.

He said that the ongoing flooding has caused an estimated $10 million in damages and economic impact, according to the Belleville News-Democrat, and asked his staff to find out whether homes in the low lying areas by the Harding Ditch could be purchased by the federal government.

Eastern explained that the ditch was so full during last week’s storm that the pump stations automatically shut off.

He also said that the ditch needs to be dredged, but has been told by the federal government that it did not have the funds for that. 

EASTERN KENTUCKY: Some areas in eastern Kentucky reported receiving more than eight inches of rain within 24 hours

EASTERN KENTUCKY: Some areas in eastern Kentucky reported receiving more than eight inches of rain within 24 hours

EASTERN KENTUCKY: The water level of the North Fork of the Kentucky River at Whitesburg rose to a staggering 20 feet within hours, well above its previous record of 14.7 feet

EASTERN KENTUCKY: The water level of the North Fork of the Kentucky River at Whitesburg rose to a staggering 20 feet within hours, well above its previous record of 14.7 feet

EASTERN KENTUCKY: Bridges in the Appalachian region collapsed, isolating communities as homes were torn from their foundation as mudslides poured into the valleys

EASTERN KENTUCKY: Bridges in the Appalachian region collapsed, isolating communities as homes were torn from their foundation as mudslides poured into the valleys

 But experts say the situation may only become more dire in the coming years as the Earth’s average temperature continues to rise.

Experts say that the ever increasing concentrations of heat trapping gases, mainly from the combustion of fossil fuels, have caused the average temperature to increase by 1.1 degrees Celsius, or two degrees Fahrenheit, every year since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

And with each degree Celsius the temperature increases, the air can hold 7 percent more moisture, leading to more severe storms.

Making matters worse, flooding associated with sea level rise is already accelerating, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

‘Sea level rise impacts are happening now, and are growing rapidly,’ William Sweet explains in the report, noting that the rising sea level could exacerbate the flooding from storms, which push more ocean water onto land.

The saltwater could also fill underground drainage pipes, which means rainwater could back up and collect in the streets.

By 2050, the report estimates, high tides could send water into neighborhoods dozens of days each year. 

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