Residents begin cleaning up in wake of floods

UNION, Mo. - With the walls of water that had carried off cars and mobile homes gone, residents of Franklin and Jefferson counties began the heartbreaking task of cleanup.

The flash floods washed out roads, inundated homes and killed at least two people early Sunday after more than a foot of rain swamped east-central Missouri. Flooding also killed one woman in Oklahoma.

So much rain fell so fast that many were unaware they were in peril until tornado sirens sounded. In a neighborhood near Flat Creek, normally just a small stream, people opened their doors to see white-capped water rushing past.

Twenty-two trailers near the creek were destroyed. Most floated off their pads and crashed into each other.

''It was pretty upsetting when I first saw it,'' said Mike Parentier, who owns the Flat Creek Mobile Home Park. ''After I calmed down, I realized there was nothing I could do about it.''

Fourteen inches of rain fell as the storm stalled over Franklin County for about six hours, repeatedly redeveloping and ''hitting the same area over and over and over again'' before dissipating, said meteorologist Thomas Spriggs of the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

Connie Barnes, 19, of St. Clair, died Sunday when the car she was in overturned in water on a washed-out road, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said. Six other people in the car were injured.

Another person was killed when a vehicle was caught by a flash flood near Robertsville, Sheriff Gary Toelke said.

Hundreds of people were evacuated through the night as creeks quickly rose out of their banks.

The National Guard was sent to help with rescues and cleanup in hard-hit Franklin County, west of St. Louis, and Jefferson County, south of the city.

''We got everybody out, and everybody's accounted for, so we're pretty lucky,'' said Union Mayor Glenn Van Leer.

In Cedar Hill, two fire officials had to cling to trees awaiting rescue for almost two hours after their boat capsized on the Meramec River.

The Bourbeuse River rose 16.5 feet at Union, and was expected to rise an additional five feet before cresting today. The Big River rose 12 feet - three feet over flood stage - at Byrnesville.

Most of the water receded on Sunday as the storm moved east into Illinois.

The floods were caused by storm system that arrived late Saturday after lumbering northeastward from Oklahoma. In the Tulsa area, hundreds of families had to be evacuated and a 53-year-old woman drowned when her car was caught in a flash flood.

The same slow-moving system had been blamed for thunderstorms in the southern Plains and western Gulf Coast states for much of last week.

At Sapulpa, Okla., where 200 homes and 12 businesses were flooded, creeks were back in their banks Sunday but the gray sky gave Creek County Emergency Management Director B.J. Pope reason to worry.

''Until it can run and creeks can be emptied, we're still in danger,'' he said. ''We couldn't stand another two inches of rain.''

Severe weather with a possibility of heavy rain was forecast tonight and into Tuesday across northeastern Oklahoma, the National Weather Service reported. Rain was possible during the night in parts of Missouri.


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