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Missouri town floods twice in 16 months; downstream levee blamed

Posted at 2:46 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 17:46:29-04

Flood waters are finally receding in suburban towns around St. Louis, Missouri.

It is the second major flooding event along the Meramec River in the St. Louis metro area in 16 months.

"I don't think I could go through this again," said lifelong Fenton, Missouri resident Christopher Calandro. "It was hard on the family and myself."

Calandro's chiropractic office was submerged by flood waters in December 2015, and again this week.

He was relying on his humor and his trusty guitar he strummed as the rain continued to fall, Thursday.

"Hey, I've got some lakefront property," he joked.

Calandro says he's praying the government will buy out his property because after two devastating floods and a mortgage, he won't be able to sell his office building.

He and other residents loudly wondered how much the levee upstream in Valley Park, Missouri contributed to their two recent floods.

Longtime residents of Fenton don't remember severe flooding like this, especially less than two years apart.

Valley Park constructed a levee along its stretch of the Meramec River almost 10 years ago.

During the December 2015 flood, Valley Park residents like Tim Carew packed up their longtime home wondering if the levee would hold.

His home was last inundated by a major flood in 1982.

"It came up about a half foot from the ceiling," he said.

The levee held in 2015, and it held this week, and that may have spelled disaster for towns like Fenton downstream.

"The water is going to go somewhere," said Washington University earth and planetary science professor Dr. Bob Criss. "You're just displacing water on somebody else."

Criss says the Army Corps of Engineers built the Valley Park levee too tall, which could cause an extra few feet of flooding in other places since the water can't go into Valley Park as easily.

The Army Corps of Engineers is adamant it followed regulations when building the levee and denies any allegations it is responsible for more severe flooding downstream.

Criss says it is indicative of a much larger problem in the area. More floodplains are being developed, and those developments are insisting on levees and other flood protection. Criss says that makes flooding more severe when it does happen.

"We keep aggravating the problem and we keep kicking the bear and wondering why we get clawed," he said.