ST. LOUIS – The head of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s St. Louis Office is answering questions about last week’s historic rainfall that resulted in flash flooding along some of our interstate system. Specifically, what can be done to prevent events like that from happening in our future?
MoDOT District Engineer Tom Blair said it was heartbreaking to see video of motorists stuck in the water but he says Modot was scrambling early on in the crisis.
“And we did that, that morning. Our MoDOT team is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We had team members at our transportation management center that were monitoring the situation that were calling in additional MoDOT employees. They were dispatching messages to our messaging boards as early as two o’clock in the morning.”
Blair says it was just too much water that came way too fast for the system to handle.
Would improving infrastructure help on that front?
“Well, this event was historic. So can engineers design for this event? Engineers can design for this event but do we want to pay for that engineering, cause you have to have pipes you have to have big enough pipes,” he said. “The intensity of this rain, as your station has covered, was historic? Do you design a stormwater system for a historic event?”
Blair says MoDOT workers were out earlier in the crisis with law enforcement shutting down flooded highways. Their work continued once the water was gone.
“In most cases, the water was gone within an hour or so of the severe rain stopping, so then we start our evaluation,” he said. “Right now, we’ve only found one or two locations that we had some repairs, emergency repairs that we’re doing. For the most part, we have no long-term damage to St Louis roadways.”
Blair’s best advice for motorists in future situations like this is if they see water on the highway, don’t try to drive through it.