(CNN) — As early as 7 a.m. Tuesday, St. Louis residents were facing the wettest day in the city’s history on record, as roads filled with water and widespread flooding overwhelmed cars, highways and homes. . The day had just begun.
As the hours passed, the heavy rains continued and floodwaters inundated the city and surrounding areas, forcing people to flee or wait for rescue teams to find them.
Jessica Perez was woken up by her son around 3:30 am At which point she discovered her basement had been flooded with several millimeters of water, she told CNN. The video she took shows the basement covered in murky water, soaking furniture legs as Christmas decorations and other items float around it.
By 9 am the water had receded, revealing a layer of debris and black mud. Everything in the basement was ruined, Pérez said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life,” he commented.
Between midnight and 7 am alone on Tuesday, more than 200 millimeters of rain fell in St. Louis. That surpassed the 160-millimeter record set by the city in 1915. Although the downpours gave some respite on Tuesday afternoon, the area is expected to receive less severe rain on Wednesday and Thursday, the National Weather Service said. A situation that could cause flash flooding in areas of St. Louis affected by Tuesday’s storms, the agency warned.
The flooding left at least one person dead on Tuesday. The body of a man was found in a vehicle submerged under more than 2.4 meters of water, said the city’s fire chief, Dennis Jenkerson. A concerned resident called police, who found the body when the water receded, the official said.
Rescuers fanned out across the area to help residents trapped in the floodwaters. The fire department responded to about 18 houses, where people were trapped, and rescued six people and six dogs, the department said. Approximately 15 people chose to shelter in place.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page declared a state of emergency for the area. This measure allows the state to apply for federal aid funds, Page explained in a Tweet. Additionally, shelters for displaced residents were set up throughout the region.
Among those who arrived at a shelter Tuesday was a family from suburban University City, who told CNN affiliate KSDK the water was rushing into their home so fast they had to flee barefoot, leaving behind medication, walkers and canes. But the items they regret the most, they said, are their irreplaceable sentimental belongings, like photos of family members who are not alive.
Flooding in St. Louis turned roads into rivers
Flooding in St. Louis also turned highways into raging rivers. For this reason, several streets had to be closed, while vehicles were submerged up to the windows and stranded drivers throughout the city had to wait for rescuers in boats.
At one point Tuesday, all four interstate highways leading into downtown St. Louis — I-70, I-64, I-55 and I-44 — had at least one closure due to flooding, reported KMOV.
A stretch of I-70 in the St. Louis area, where vehicles were seen trapped in the water, was closed in both directions overnight. Drivers were also urged to avoid this interstate.
“You can see there are cars floating around,” driver Jerome Smith said in a video he recorded while stuck on I-70 for three hours.
By Tuesday afternoon, roads were largely clear and all bridges over the River des Peres were open, St. Louis Public Safety Director Heather Taylor said. “While we hope the worst is over, we want to keep the public informed,” Taylor added.
Now, it wasn’t just drivers who were delayed for hours on Tuesday. Parts of the St. Louis-area MetroLink commuter rail system have been flooded, and potential damage to equipment threatens closures of more than two weeks while services are restored, according to the city’s transit agency.
Images showed water rushing through the Forest Park-DeBaliviere Metrolink station. “It’s a river now… I’ve never seen this in the four years I’ve lived here,” said Tony Nipert, who lives near the station.
The severe flooding that hit the region also severely damaged electrical equipment, leading to thousands of reported power outages in St. Louis County. By afternoon, power had been restored to nearly 20,000 customers, according to the electric power company. American people.
Rainfall of this magnitude in the St. Louis area only occurs once every 500 years, on average, according to data from the National Weather Service.
The climate crisis is intensifying rainfall around the world, with rising temperatures making record downpours more likely as more moisture is stored in the atmosphere, experts say. Scientists are increasingly confident about the role that the climate crisis plays in extreme weather.
Extreme one-day rains that used to occur once a decade (between 1850 and 1900) are expected to become more common, according to a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
CNN’s Amy Simonson, Amy Roberts, Sharif Paget, Sara Smart, Melissa Alonso, Jason Hanna and Caroll Alvarado contributed to this report.