Stay Out of Flash Floods in St. Louis This Weekend, Emergency Crews Warn
TIPS: St. Louis County emergency responders met Thursday morning at the command center of Metro West Fire Protection District in Wildwood to collectively prepare for incoming storm Isaac. They fear people will plunge into flood waters.
Once St. Louis County emergency responders heard from the National Weather Service expert, Jim Kramper, on Thursday morning that Tropical Depression Isaac was slowing down and may not unleash as much danger to St. Louis in the air, they immediately turned their preparations to swift water rescue planning. Somewhere between 3 to 5 inches of rainfall is expected to move slowly over St. Louis between Friday and Saturday, said Kramper.
A countywide preparation session was hosted before noon at Wildwood-based Metro West Fire Protection District's command center.
Represented in the discussions and planning were: St. Louis County OEM, Region C IST, Metro West Fire Protection District, Eureka Fire Protection District, Monarch Fire Protection District, Valley Park Fire Protection District, Maryland Heights Fire Protection District, West County EMS, Boles Fire Protection District, St. Louis County Police-Wildwood (6th) Precinct, Ellisville Police Department, Ballwin Police Department and Eureka Police Department.
Michael Thiemann, coordinator of Metro West's Emergency Management, shared the following public safety tips about flashing floods from the American Red Cross:
- Listen to area radio and television stations and national weather radio updates for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress from the National Weather Service.
- Be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.
- When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
- Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep people off their feet.
- If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Keep children out of the water; they are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
Metro West paramedic Lt. Scott Hulsey demonstrated on Thursday what tools are in rescuers' swift water kits for conditions such as expected in St. Louis County this weekend. Kits have helmets and water suits, in addition to throw ropes, gloves, vests, glow sticks, swift water fins and goggles.
He said Metro West has 13 certified swift water rescuers. "We ensure that two swift water reps go out on every run, and have three or four of us available for every shift."
He said the water this weekend likely will be 80 to 85 degrees, but with the cold rain, will cause a shivering issue. "The suits help stabilize us and allow us to do our jobs during water rescues. We're ready."
ADDED FRIDAY AT 2:45 P.M.:
St. Louis County Police Department this afternoon issued the following public safety tips.
DO NOT TAKE RISKS—Driving through standing water on a flooded street can be hazardous. Water can rise quickly on streets and roadways. The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water, and roads covered by water are prone to collapse.
BE KEENLY AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS—Just because a road isn't closed during extreme weather does not mean it is entirely safe. The manpower of emergency responders of any organization can be deeply taxed during these times. Again, water can rise quickly on streets and roadways. Heavy winds can quickly bring down electrical or power lines.
CALL 911 IF YOU NOTICE ANY DANGEROUS SITUATION OCCURING—Because so many things can happen so quickly, carry a phone with you. Make notification to the appropriate entity if you observe any dangerous situation occurring.
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch advises that citizens should not hesitate to call 911 if they see any of these threatening events. "The St. Louis County Police Department and other County Departments will be monitoring the effects of any extreme weather we may receive; however, the involvement of our citizens is crucial during these times.”