Wayward Jet Leaves Extremes in Wake

July 27, 2022

New York Times:

Just three days ago, the River Des Peres, which carries storm water from the city of St. Louis, was “almost bone dry,” the city’s fire chief said, as Missouri experienced what the governor called increasingly dry conditions and the growing threat of serious drought.

Then came record rainfall early Tuesday, drenching parts of St. Louis and other areas of Missouri with up to a foot of rain that quickly transformed interstates and neighborhood streets into roaring rivers that collapsed roofs and forced residents to flee their homes in inflatable boats.

While officials worked to assess the full scope of the damage, Chief Dennis M. Jenkerson of the St. Louis Fire Department said at a news conference on Tuesday that one person who had been pulled from a flooded vehicle had died. There was about 8.5 feet of water in the area, he said.

The flash flooding was only the latest entry in what seemed to be an unceasing onslaught of extreme weather disasters, with ferocious wildfires, punishing heat waves, crippling droughts and deadly floods in the United States and across the globe.

While a variety of factors contribute to flooding, researchers expect that, as the climate warms, flash floods will increase and get “flashier,” meaning their duration will shorten as their magnitude increases. Severe flash floods can be more dangerous and destructive.

City officials said they were not sure how many people had been displaced in Tuesday’s storm, but Jim Sieveking, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis, described the flash flooding as “catastrophic” and the rainfall as “historic.” 

More than nine inches of rain fell in the St. Louis area overnight, the highest 24-hour rainfall total on record there, the National Weather Service said. It surpassed the 7.02 inches that fell in 1915 from the remnants of the Galveston hurricane. The normal amount of rain in St. Louis for July and August combined is 7.31 inches.

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