As the hours stretched on, the rain continued to pour and floodwaters inundated the city and surrounding areas, forcing people to flee or wait for rescue crews to find them.
Jessica Perez was woken by her son at about 3:30 am to find her basement flooded with several inches of water, she told CNN. Video taken by Perez shows the basement blanketed by murky water, soaking the legs of furniture as Christmas ornaments and other items float about.
The water had receded by 9 am, revealing a layer of debris and black sludge and leaving everything in the basement ruined, Perez said. « Never in my life have I experienced something like this, » she said.
The flooding left at least one person dead on Tuesday. The man’s body was found in a vehicle that had been submerged under more than 8 feet of water, city Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said. Police were called to the low-lying area by a concerned resident and found the body when the water receded, he said.
Rescuers fanned out across the area to help stranded residents stuck in the flooding. The fire department responded to about 18 homes where people were trapped, rescuing six people and six dogs, the department said. Approximately 15 people thing to shelter in place.
Highways turned into rivers
The flooding inundating homes also transformed roads into rushing rivers, forcing multiple street closures as vehicles became submerged window-deep and drivers were left stranded throughout the city, waiting for rescuers on boats.
A stretch of I-70 in the St. Louis area — where vehicles were seen stuck in the water — was closed in both directions during the early morning, and motorists were urged to avoid the interstate.
« You can see there’s cars up there floating around, » driver Jerome Smith said in a video he took while stuck on I-70 for three hours.
By Tuesday afternoon, highways were mostly clear and all bridges over the River des Peres were open, said Heather Taylor, St. Louis’ deputy director of public safety.
Images showed water rushing through the Forest Park-DeBaliviere Metrolink station. « It’s currently a river … I have never seen this in the four years I’ve lived here, » said Tony Nipert, who lives near the station.
Big one-day precipitation dumps that used to happen once a decade (between 1850 and 1900) are expected to become more common, according to a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
‘Potentially significant’ flash flooding possible elsewhere in US this week
But those are just the areas of greatest risk. A « conveyor belt of heavy showers and thunderstorms » will stretch from the Southwest to the central Appalachians over the next few days, the center said.
Flash flooding could happen from the Ozarks through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, and in parts of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and by Friday, western Kansas, according to the center.
CNN’s Amy Simonson, Amy Roberts, Sharif Paget, Sara Smart, Melissa Alonso, Jason Hanna and Caroll Alvarado contributed to this report.