Rivers run through it

Missouri, the birthplace of Mark Twain, is a river state. Or, more accurately, a “rivers” state. Some 120 rivers — each with its share of streams and creeks that feed it — flow, course or meander across the state. And sometimes, they rise up.

Missouri absorbed at least 10 inches of rain between Monday and Tuesday this week, especially south of St. Louis which also happens to be the area we (myself, the Mall Diva, Tiger Lilly and Ben) are visiting. When we first drove through here Wednesday, however, the skies had cleared and everything looked normal. Until, that is, we got to the place on Highway 63 between Vichy and Vienna where the road passes over the Gasconade River. At this point the road and the river were vying to see just who would pass over whom. The roadbed was still high and dry, but the fields on either side were flooded nearly to the shoulders for about half a mile. People were stopping, gawking and taking photos.

We made it the rest of the way in to my mom’s house without incident or seeing serious water, but in a county that features the Meramec, Huzzah, Courtois (coat-a-way), Bourbeuse and Gasconade rivers and their tributaries such as Turkey Creek, Mill Creek and Bonne Femme (Ben liked that one) Creek, we were in the process of being surrounded. Nearer to St. Louis the rising Meramec closed Hwys. 40 and 149 and threatened Interstate 44, where sandbagging crews were busy lining the highway with sandbags in hopes of keeping this major artery open heading into the holiday weekend.

Closer to us, my brother spent the day on his cellphone, coordinating with the drivers of his four FedEx trucks, trying to keep them on the right side of the rising rivers so the trucks and drivers could sleep at home last night, even if the deliveries had to wait since most of these absolutely, positively wouldn’t float. We drove down to Steelville to visit my grandmother once we heard that MODOT, which had been watching the Hwy. 19 bridge over the Meramec, was going to leave it open for the time being. Crossing the bridge over what is normally a ravine we could see the water nearly up to the deck. One one side of the road there’s a local float-trip operation, and its campground and recreation area had water up to the basketball hoops and only the peaks of the green roofs over the picnic pavilions were showing.

It was kind of a strange experience. The day was beautiful, warm and sunny yet all around southern Missouri bridges and roads were closing as the waters kept rising slowly but inexorably, with the rivers yet to crest in several areas. Our own route into the area finally went under yesterday as well, leading me to map out an alternate way home for Ben and the girls, who had to head back this morning. As a bonus, this way takes them through one of their favorite little towns, Hermann, which also happens to rest beside the Missouri River. It’s a very high bridge, however. I told the girls that if the bridge is closed at Hermann they should just turn-around and come back because I’ll need Ben’s help to build an ark.

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