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Day of heavy rain swamps streets; rivers are rising

After a mild Christmas holiday, weather forecasters warn the St. Louis area could see historic rainfall and life threatening flooding. Several creeks were already inundated by Saturday afternoon, causing nearby roads to close.

Rain and thunderstorms are expected to produce rainfall amounts of 5 to 8 inches across the area by Monday, causing rapid rises on major rivers and creeks, according to the National Weather Service. The worst flooding will be along Interstate 44 in Missouri and along Interstates 55 and 70 in Illinois.

Live updates: The latests on the flooding

Sunday's updates: More rain expected for the metropolitan St. Louis area

The heavy rain triggered a flood of water on stretches of Manchester Road in Brentwood and Rock Hill on Saturday afternoon, forcing police to temporarily close the road to traffic. Water also rushed along Grant Road near Gravois Creek in Grantwood Village.

Several St. Louis County parks were closed, including Tilles Park in Ladue and its Winter Wonderland light show.

Brentwood Fire Chief Ted Jury said rescue crews using boats evacuated eight people trapped in businesses and cars on a stretch of Manchester.

Most stalled on the road were due to people trying to drive through the high water, according to Sgt. Hattie Carman of the Brentwood police.

The road in Brentwood was underwater in minutes, said Bruce Becker, who owns American Locksmiths just east of Brentwood.

Manchester Road looks like the Meramec River from my store to Hanley Road, Becker said.

Beckers store was closed Saturday, but he was watching for rising water on video surveillance he streams to his smartphone. At 2 p.m., the video showed only rain.

Twenty minutes later, waves were splashing up the front of his building, Becker said. Water had reached over a foot deep in the parking lot, and about 2 inches had collected inside.

Since he moved to the location 36 years ago, this is the fifth time his store has flooded, he said: Its very frustrating.

Mike Sertich, 54, of Marlborough, was working at Discount Smoke Shop at 8519 Manchester when he noticed the rising water.

He closed the store and started moving the tobacco products to a higher area before finding himself trapped. I just waited too long, and when I was ready to leave, the water was too high, he said.

Eventually, the fire department was able to get him out.

Melissa Keeney lives on Dorothy Avenue just north of Manchester. She wasnt home when the water started to rise, but a neighbor called to warn her. Keeney said she returned to find about 5 feet of water in her basement. She and others tried to remove as much as they could from the garage before it flooded as well.

Its going to be a really big mess to clean up, she said. I didnt realized it would fill up this fast.

A flash flood warning was issued from 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday for parts of eastern and central Missouri and southwestern Illinois, because flooding was expected to develop quickly and become more widespread.

By Saturday afternoon, about 3 inches of rain had already fallen in the area, with additional storms on the way, the weather service reported.

A flood watch remained in effect through Monday afternoon, meaning flash flooding is still possible. Do not drive into floodwater, officials warn.

The weather service also issued several flood warnings for area rivers. Major flooding is expected this week along the Meramec River, expected to fill homes with water and close surrounding roads. By noon on Saturday, the Meramec already reached the flood stage of 24 feet near Arnold; it is expected to crest near 41.5 feet Thursday morning.

Near Eureka, the Meramec is forecast to rise above the flood stage of 18 feet Sunday afternoon and crest near 34.8 feet Wednesday evening. At Valley Park, the river is expected to crest Wednesday evening at 34.2 feet, which will flood Highway 141 at Interstate 44. Sullivan is expected to see the Meramec crest at 27.5 feet Monday night.

Eureka Fire Chief Greg Brown predicts a significant number of road closures, with the Allenton Bottoms and House Springs areas accessible only by boat.

There will be a lot of little pockets depending on how bad it gets, Brown said.

The Mississippi River at St. Louis is also expected to see major flooding. The river is forecast to rise above flood stage early Sunday afternoon and reach nearly 41 feet Wednesday evening.

That would be the rivers highest level since May 22, 1995, when the water crested at 41.89 feet.

On Saturday, St. Louis began closing off flood gates on the citys north riverfront.

The weather hasnt had much impact on the power grid. As of 6:10 p.m., Ameren Missouri reported only 1,322 customers out of 1.19 million were without power. For Ameren Illinois, only 192 customers out of 1.21 million experienced an outage.

Jack Suntrup, special to the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this report.