River constriction and wetter climate leave St. Louis area vulnerable to more frequent major floods

In a span of just 16 months, residents of waterlogged communities along the Meramec River and other swollen area waterways braced for and dealt with so-called “100-year” floods that have left damage, financial loss and heartache in their wake. Now, as the floodwater recedes in some communities, residents are left wondering how soon the next catastrophic flood will arrive.

Answers from experts are not reassuring.

Officially, neither the 2015 flood nor last week’s disaster on the Meramec qualify as 100-year events — though that may be small comfort.

“This flood we’re preliminarily calling an 80-, 81-year event,” said Bob Holmes, the Rolla-based national flood coordinator for the United States Geological Survey. The 2015 flood, he says, ranked as a “91-year” event based on flood records for the Meramec at Eureka.

Though Holmes points out that it’s “not unheard of” to have floods of that severity happen in such close succession, others think it’s more than just a stroke of bad luck. They assign blame to worrisome climate trends that boost the likelihood of major rain events or failed flood policy that both constricts and swells waterways through levee construction and flood plain development.

Combined and left unmitigated, some say, both those factors mean the region’s flooding problems will persist.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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