Tzu Chi Assesses St. Louis Flood After Mississippi River Submerges City

Midwest  |  June 26, 2019
Local community street next to Meramec River covered by flood waters. Photo by Paul Hung

Author: Beajia Laschober
Translation: Wei Qingjun
Editor: Natasha Palance

Devastating floods poured throughout communities in St. Louis, Missouri earlier this month. An accumulation of heavy storms resulted in historic flooding in the Mississippi River, the second highest crest since 1993, submerging nearby communities and leading the state of Missouri to request its second Federal Disaster Declaration of the year. Volunteers from Tzu Chi’s Midwest Region immediately responded on June 9th and headed to the disaster area to conduct assessments.

The Mississippi River is the largest river in North America in both size and volume. Excessive rainfall from this past April and May pushed water levels in the river close to its near historical high during recent storms, causing the extensive floods throughout the Midwest in early June.  

St. Louis community roads destroyed by Mississippi River floods. Photo by: Beajia Laschober

Frequent Flooding at the Mississippi and Missouri River Confluence

St. Louis is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Flooding happens regularly at low-lying areas like these, particularly at the turn of Spring and Summer when water levels rise. Serious disasters occur when rivers crest and breach levees, structures designed to regulate water levels.  

Communities located in close vicinity to the confluence have long suffered from these frequent floods. When local weather reports anticipated frequent rainfall in early and mid June in this region, local Tzu Chi volunteers paid close attention to areas at risk for potential flooding. 

On Sunday, June 9th, the Tzu Chi Midwest Regional team in St. Louis to conduct disaster assessments and administer home visits to flood survivors who are previous aid recipients.

St. Louis community roads destroyed by Mississippi River floods. Photo by: Beajia Laschober

Riverside Area Jointly Suffers from Frequent Floods

Before even entering the Riverside area, volunteers noticed that many roads into the community have been flooded and remain impassable. Our dedicated volunteers took a detour to get closer to the impacted community, only to find many houses submerged in flood water. 

Many Riverside community residents have received funding from local government to either move away or raise the foundation of their houses as a means of ensuring disaster preparedness for the next flood. 

A local gas station on the road into the Riverside community has flooded many times. However even with its foundation raised, the station was still forced to close after this most recent flooding.

Local St. Louis gas station forced to close after flooding despite raised foundations. Photo by: Beajia Laschober

Many public spaces in the community, including basketball courts and parks, have been submerged by flood waters as a result of the swollen river. One recreation area has suffered from complete destruction amid recent June floods as a result of repeated damage from frequent flooding. 

Streets next to the Meramec River, also frequently visited by flood waters, have been completely submerged as well. Sandbags are piled up on Boeing Dr., a local street next to the Meramec River, in case of additional flooding. 

Fully Loaded Bamboo Banks

Tony Sigala and his family, previous Tzu Chi aid recipients and flood survivors, live on Boeing Drive in St. Louis. They received eco-blankets and cash cards from Tzu Chi in 2016 after the region suffered from catastrophic floods. Tony, his wife and their neighbor Carolin were very happy to see Tzu Chi volunteers returning to the area to provide hope and light to those in need. The Sigala family and neighbor Carolin were comforted to know that their flood-affected neighbors will similarly receive compassionate aid from Tzu Chi.

Tony (left), his wife (2nd to left) and their neighbor Carolin (3rd to left) warmly greet Tzu Chi volunteers during a home visit. Photo by: Paul Hung
Tony donates a filled bamboo bank for the second time. Photo by: Terry Yen

When Tzu Chi volunteers visited the Sigala family home, Tony found his bamboo bank that he had previously received and told volunteers that it was filled to the brim, ready to make a difference in someone’s life. This is the second time Tony has donated a full bamboo bank filled with change and gratitude. 

After on site disaster assessments, Tzu Chi volunteers referenced disaster statistics from the St. Louis local government to ensure a thorough evaluation of damage. An emergency disaster relief program will be facilitated to flood impacted survivors upon assessment completion. 

Our compassionate relief programs would not be possible without your support. Help us ensure that St. Louis flood survivors receive the love they need to recover from this devastation.

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