Rising flood water will close Interstate 44 on Monday night, May 1 at 7 p.m. That action is, in turn, expected to force east and westbound interstate traffic onto Route 100 and Manchester Road between Gray Summit and I-270.
“Route 100 will become the new I-44 when we wake up tomorrow morning,” said Tom Blair, assistant district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation [MoDOT] at a news conference on May 1.
And MoDOT officials are also evaluating flooding may prompt the closing of I-55, Telegraph Road and Lindbergh Boulevard in the next few days. I-55 is expected to remain open through the evening rush hour on Tuesday, May 2.
“Interstate 55 is so close to seeing water on top that we have teams putting together a plan of how we would close that road,” said Mark Croarkin, MoDOT’s district maintenance engineer.
But the immediate impact for motorists may be along Route 100 which turns into Manchester Road, which is already traffic-clogged at times.
“The traffic volumes on Route 100 are going to skyrocket,” Blair said. He urged patience and suggested motorists consider changing their routes or staying home if possible. “Minutes on that route will become hours,” he said, of Hwy. 100, which in the best of times sees considerable traffic.
Blair and MoDOT officials are urging motorists using Hwy. 100 to only make right turns. Although left turn signals will remain, traffic signals are being changed to move the main traffic. They and officials with the National Weather Service briefed reporters on what they called a “historic flood.” The flooding, particularly along the Meramec, Bourbeuse and Big rivers is threatening to reach levels close to those recorded in December 2015.
“This is going to exceed anything we experienced back in December of 2015,” Blair said. “Many of us were on vacation at that time, our schools were closed, we’re going to need everyone’s patience and support to get through this is as a region.”
Blair and MoDOT officials stressed that the flooding situation may change. As of Monday afternoon, main roads closed include Highway 141 at I-44, Highway 30 at the Meramec River, and a portion of Highway 79 in St. Charles County. Blair said 77 state-owned roads in the St. Louis region are closed.
“Everybody in St. Louis that lives in southwest St. Louis County, Jefferson and Franklin counties, it’s going to start hitting us really now,” Blair said. Residents whose homes and business aren’t flooded are going to feel the impact of road closures in the next few days – road closures that may last a week or longer, he said.
Blair also urged motorists planning to traffic across the state use I-70 because I-44 is also closed in other parts of the state.
MoDOT officials said closures are expected to include:
- Closing I-44 on Monday night. Motorists have been able to take a westbound I-44 lane to go north on Highway 141 but water from the nearby Meramec River is expected to cover that ramp. Highway 141 is expected to be closed for a week
- Closing I-44 between I-270 and Highway 109 sometime Monday night. Although an exact time hasn’t been determined the interstate will be closed before morning rush on Tuesday. MoDOT will keep one westbound lane open between I-270 and Bowles for people who live and work in the Fenton area. The lane is meant to serve local traffic.
- At the same time, I-44 is being closed, a section of Route 109 is expected to go underwater between Eureka High School and Routes W and FF, right after motorists cross the Meramec River. Highway 30 is also expected to go underwater at the Meramec River. Highway 21 and will be closed between Highway 141 heading east. Highway 21 at the Meramec River is also expected to be covered by water.
- Traffic from the southbound lane of Highway 67 between Alton and St. Louis County was being shifted on May 1 to the northbound lane. Traffic in each direction will run one each in each direction.
Meanwhile, MoDOT officials say the flood while close to the severity of the December 2015 flood is different. Croarkin said in 2015 flood levels were particularly high on the Meramec and Bourbeuse; this time flood levels are high on the Big River, which flows into the Meramec.
“So really Telegraph, Lindbergh and I-55 are all right at that line where they could go under, they all stay safe or we have a combination in between,” Croarkin said.
Area officials are also worried about more rain in the forecast starting the evening of May 2 through May 3.
Mark Fuchs, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, said there could be as much as and 1 to 1-5 inches of rain, with the heaviest amount over the Meramec River basin.
The good news is that the majority of the impact will be a secondary crest and prolonged flooding, he said. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to make it any worse,” Fuchs said. “It might prolong the agony in some areas.”