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Downtown St. Louis sees near-record flooding, utility outages

A portion of Carr Street was bone dry Saturday, then a force main underground became overwhelmed with water.

SAINT LOUIS, Mo. — The Mississippi River has gotten so high in downtown St. Louis that the water is nearly eye-level for tourists gathered at Gateway Arch National Park.

"Just curious," said Marie Wofford, who brought her two kids out to see the high river levels. "I just wanted to see how far it was up on the Arch grounds."

Wofford remembers coming to the exact same spot during the flood of 1993.

"It’s almost there, but not quite," she said.

So how deep is the Mississippi River? The top of the roof at the famed Jewel Box in Forest is about 50 feet. That’s the level that the river crested in 1993. One tier down on the Jewel Box is about 46 feet tall. That's the same level that the Mississippi is expected to crest on Wednesday.

Those near-record levels are now starting to cause major problems.

"We’re hitting uncharted territory here," said Sean Hadley, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).

A portion of Carr Street was bone dry Saturday, then a force main underground became overwhelmed with water.

Also see | Mississippi River breaches Pin Oak levee in Winfield

"When that force main failed it actually flooded out Ashley Energy, which is a big steam provider for the City of St. Louis. It did affect several buildings within the downtown St. Louis area," Hadley explained.

Both the Downtown Hilton and Westin Hotels had the unenviable position of telling their guests they wouldn’t have any hot water, indefinitely.

Hadley said those facilities will bring in temporary boiling machines to accommodate their guests.

Busch Stadium also had a hot water outage, meaning the Cubs went home without a win or a hot shower.

Hadley said MSD is doing all it can to get systems back online but insists this incident was inevitable.

"With the river being as high as it is, nothing could have been done by this," said Hadley.

Wofford never thought she'd see the river as high as in 1993 again. Now she wonders, will it happen again this year?

"That tells you once in a lifetime isn’t always once in a lifetime," said Wofford.

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