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Ehlmann calls St. Charles County ‘lucky’ in regard to spring flooding, tornado damage

Cottleville City Park on May 1, 2017

St. Charles County may have gotten off easier in terms of early spring flood damage, when compared to other parts of the St. Louis region, particularly south of the Missouri River.

“I think we’re pretty lucky,” St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said during the May 8 County Council meeting. But he added, “I say that [but] there are some people who have been affected. I don’t want to downplay the tragedy that they have gone through, but [for] all of the homes that are protected by levees, all of the levees held.”

Ehlmann added that the one levee that didn’t hold was the Augusta Bottom Levee along the Missouri River in the southwestern part of the county. County officials were still assessing the cost of repairs in early May; costs that may not be known for some time.

“There will be a cost but it will not be major,” he said.

“If they [levee districts] hadn’t done good maintenance work over the years, we could have had a real problem,” Ehlmann said, noting that poorly maintained levees often fail.

The county, whose borders include the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, along with Peruque and Dardenne creeks, has always been particularly vulnerable to flooding.

Ehlmann told councilmembers that the county’s emergency operation’s center worked closely with other jurisdictions, including levee districts, municipalities, fire protection districts and the Missouri Department of Transportation [MoDOT], in dealing with flooding. The county provided gravel, sand and other materials to local levee districts – as much as 375 tons of rock, 425 tons of sand – [100 tons for the Augusta Bottom Levee that Ehlmann said “didn’t help much”] and 26,000 sandbags at a cost of $8,500.

Councilmembers at the meeting praised both the county and MoDOT for handling the flooding situation along area roads.  County Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 2] said the rain on April 29 was like nothing he had ever seen before. He described it as coming down in “buckets.”

County officials, on May 8, also offered an assessment of damages caused by a tornado that struck without warning near Kampville. The tornado struck about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 and had a path of less than four miles. Trees were toppled and some docks on the Mississippi River were severely damaged.

Jered Agee, director of county’s building and code enforcement, said building department employees worked with the county’s emergency operations office to inspect 36 buildings in the area for damages. He told the council that three structures were damaged; however, none were rated as unsafe. He put damages to the buildings at $429,959.

One nearby resident, Charles Williamson, said he was concerned that residents didn’t know that a storm was about to hit. “The issue is no sirens,” Williamson told the council. “Nobody had any warning.”

Williamson said he wasn’t accusing anyone, but the issue “definitely needs to be addressed because this was potentially a very, very bad situation.”

Ehlmann said the county also had not received any notification of a possible tornado. “We turn on the sirens but we’re not the weathermen,” Ehlmann said. The National Weather Service normally issues warnings that prompt sirens, but we received no reports before the tornado hit, he said.

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