Hundreds rescued from devastating flooding in St. Louis area

In Missouri, state and local officials have declared a state of emergency due to severe flooding in St. Louis and the surrounding areas, where historic rainfall turned streets and highways into rivers. Emergency crews rescued hundreds of residents across the region and dozens more fled their homes amid rising waters. Communities reporter Gabrielle Hays joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Missouri, state and local officials have declared a state of emergency due to severe flooding in St. Louis and the surrounding areas.

    Historic rainfall of more than nine inches over 24 hours turned streets and highways into rivers. Emergency crews rescued hundreds of residents across the region, and dozens more fled their homes as the waters continued to rise.

    Community correspondent Gabrielle Hays joins us now with more from St. Louis. She has the latest.

    So, Gabrielle, first of all, tell us, how badly were people affected by this. And how did they manage to stay safe?

  • Gabrielle Hays:

    Yes, Judy.

    So I think the thing that's important to consider — and this was said yesterday in the press conference — that this didn't just hit one specific area. People all over the region were really affected by this. I interviewed a woman yesterday, who was rescued by boat out of her apartment with a 10-month-old and a 4-year-old.

    And so they had to literally get a boat, get to her apartment, and get her out. And she says her whole car was underwater. Her apartment was underwater. She was only able to get out with a duffel bag, right?

    So we're seeing those stories across the region, not just in her area, which was Northern St. Louis County, but in parts of the city too as well. So it stretched across the region. And we're seeing a lot of those stories. And, honestly, it wasn't just residential areas. We know that there were parts of businesses that were affected as well, right?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we know, Gabrielle, the waters have pretty much receded by now.

    Do they have a good sense of how much damage has been done?

  • Gabrielle Hays:

    We really don't know yet.

    Today, the mayor was able to go out with other officials to start assessing that damage. Yesterday, after that water started to recede, I was able to go to one of the harder-hit areas, one of the streets, and was able to see what that water did.

    I mean, we were walking around homes where you could see the watermark on the side of homes about — showing how high the water went. One man told me, he woke up in the middle of the night, flung his arm over, and his hand landed in water next to his bed. And that's how he knew that his house was flooding.

    So it's going to be an ongoing thing. As I said, we're talking not just St. Louis City, but St. Louis County as well. So that's going to take people from different departments across our region to be able to take a look to see how far the damage goes. But that assessment has started. And they are doing that now. And they probably will be doing that in the coming days.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So is there a sense yet of what these local governments are going to be able to do for people and whether the resources are there to help them?

  • Gabrielle Hays:

    Yes, that's a good question.

    Well, we know for starters that there was a sort of command center created yesterday out of Richmond Heights. And that's an area where people were able to gather if they needed help or they had to evacuate from their homes.

    The fact that the mayor did declare a state of emergency means that that could open up — us up to be able to get extra aid from the federal government or other entities that can help us. And so that could be a pathway as well. Our mayor says that that will be vital in our road to recovery.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it sounds like such a difficult set of challenges for the St. Louis — for the St. Louis area.

    Gabrielle Hays, our communities reporter there, thank you very much.

  • Gabrielle Hays:

    Thanks, Judy.

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