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Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers

April 28, 2021 Environment, Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers

Recently we received a flyer from electric utility Ameren Missouri notifying us that our meter will be changed to a smart meter within the coming months.

I soon began digging into Ameren’s website to learn more detail:

Smart meters enable wireless, two-way communication that will allow us to pinpoint and solve outages sooner and provide near-real-time energy usage information to help customers better manage their energy habits and potentially save on their bill. The meters also enable us to offer a suite of new time of use rate options that give customers the power to choose a rate that fits their lifestyle. Customers will have more convenience, choice and control. (Ameren)

Watch brief Ameren video here.

In my 30+ years in St. Louis my electric rates have always been the same regardless of when I/we used electricity, but I’m looking forward to having the option to pick a plan to potentially save money:

Customers with an upgraded smart meter can choose from a suite of rate options including our new time of use (TOU) rates. TOU rates offer the opportunity to save on your bill if you can shift your energy usage to off-peak hours.

This meter change applies to all Ameren Missouri customers, the rollout is apparently about 20% complete. The following map shows when customers can expect their meter to be changed.

Click on map to open on Ameren’s website, you can search for your address to see the appropriate day your meter is scheduled to be changed. Ours is June 3, 2021.

I put in a few addresses like previous residences, friends, etc. One friend in St. Charles already has a new smart meter, but no new time of use reporting yet.  I had a video meeting with Steve Willis, Ameren Missouri Director of Rates and Analysis,  to learn more about this. Next month they’ll have a portal for smart meter customers to view detailed usage information. After a few months of use they’ll suggest which plan is best.

The following are the new Time of Use rate plans, based on currently approved rates. Summer rates are four months June-September, winter is the other 8 months. Generally the mid-peak & peak rates apply only to Monday-Friday, except major holidays.

Anytime is what we’ve always had, the rate is unchanged regardless of the time of day used.

So now here are the plans that can potentially save money compared to Anytime. I say potentially because if you use air conditioning, dryer, etc during peak rates your bill could be higher than on the Anytime plan.

The Evening/Morning Savers plan is only a slight variation from the Anytime plan. A slight reward for shifting some use from day to night.

The above plan is to begin to get customers to reduce their energy use during peak periods.

 

Now we see a greater difference between peak and off-peak, but the peak period is very long.

Now we get 3 tiers weekdays, 2 tiers on weekends.

And finally the biggest potential savings, but with a catch. Both summer & winter include a demand charge per billing cycle, based on the highest use 6am-10pm any day in the period.

For years I’ve been working to reduce our carbon footprint, including a reduction in energy use. We signed up for Arcadia a couple of years ago so 50% of our electric is wind credits.  Since we keep our air conditioning at 77° in the summer I never worried about using power during peak demand times. For over a year we’ve been on Ameren’s Peak Time Savings plan — this allows Ameren and our thermostat provider to briefly take control of our thermostat to reduce demand at critical times. They’ve never had to adjust our settings.

I’ve started prepping for the change to Time of Use rates by adjusting the schedule on our smart thermostat (Ecobee 3), my goal is for the Ultimate Savers plan to be our best bet. Since we’re still in the winter rate months until June 1st our HVAC is set so it’s unlikely to come on between 6am-8am and 6pm-8pm Monday-Friday. I lowered the lowest setting from 66° to 45°, and increased the maximum from 77° to 80°. It has been very mild so it hasn’t been an issue, not sure how well it would’ve gone in January & February when we had single digit temperatures outside.

In the summer rate months (June-September) I’ll adjust our air conditioning to come on less frequently during the 3pm-7pm peak period. This four hour period will be harder than the four hours in the winter, split into morning and evening. I’m going to contact Ecobee to ask them to add the ability to have summer & winter schedules to save having to make changes twice per year.

We’ve been using the dishwasher delay or just starting ours after 10pm. I’ve avoided using the dryer in the 6am-8am peak period, though one morning I forgot and started it during the peak period. My power wheelchair charger has been on a smart plug for years, coming on after midnight.

Part of me wants to change to a saver plan immediately after our smart meter is installed in early June, but intellectually I know I should wait until I can see my actual use before making the billing change.

— Steve Patterson

 

Metro’s New Battery Electric 60-Foot Articulated Buses Coming Soon To #70 (Grand) Route

March 15, 2021 Environment, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Metro’s New Battery Electric 60-Foot Articulated Buses Coming Soon To #70 (Grand) Route

My previous post was on the subject of BEVs — battery electric vehicles —- was the realization the used car we will purchase in a couple of years can’t be a BEV because we rent and can’t charge at our apartment. Even though we won’t own a BEV I’ll still be able to ride in one…on the #70 bus route.

The North Broadway transit center reopened after adding infrastructure to charge electric buses.

From September 2020:

Metro Transit announced Tuesday a deal with Minnesota-based New Flyer of America to add 14 zero-emission buses to the city’s fleet.

The new buses stretch 60 feet long and come with a price tag of $1.33 million each. Eighty percent of the cost will be covered by grants from the Federal Transit Administration, said Jessica Mefford-Miller, executive director of Metro Transit.

The regional transit agency has been considering adding electric battery-powered vehicles to its fleet for more than a decade, Mefford-Miller said. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Here’s some additional detail:

The 60-foot battery electric buses have 320 kilowatts of battery storage on each bus. That is enough power to support about 10 2,000-square-foot houses for an entire day. They will operate exclusively on the #70 MetroBus route, which is Metro’s busiest route and carries about 10 percent of Metro’s customers on a daily basis. (Metro’s NextStop blog)

For comparison a Chevy Bolt EV has a 66kWh battery, the biggest Tesla battery is 100kWh.

After reading numerous articles about the new electric buses but I still had questions, so I asked Patti Beck, Metro’s director of communications, to answer them.

Much of the previously large open waiting area is now filled with electric equipment.

Q:   Why are the buses for use on Grand going to be stored/charged at Brentwood instead of Central?  My guess is not enough room at Central. Or was power supply better at Brentwood? Are the current articulated buses operated out of Central or Brentwood?

A: MetroBus operates out of three facilities- Brentwood, near Manchester and Brentwood; DeBaliviere, at Delmar and DeBaliviere; and our Illinois MetroBus Facility. Metro chose the Brentwood MetroBus Facility as our first battery electric operating facility because of its more advantageous location and power rate. Ameren Missouri, in partnership with Bi-State Development, constructed an electrical substation adjacent to the Brentwood facility that will provide power supply to Metro’s battery electric fleet, as well as the surrounding community.

Comment: The Central facility is very close to Grand, but it’s small. This is the location for Call-A-Ride buses, but not 40 foot or larger buses.

Q: As I recall the current articulated buses are from Gillig. Will having new articulated buses from New Flyer be a problem in terms of maintenance, parts, etc?  Does Gillig not offer an electric articulated bus?

A: The existing 60’ articulated buses will all be retired in 2021. Gillig does not yet offer a battery electric 60’ bus. They do produce battery electric 40’ buses, and we have purchased four Gillig 40’ electric buses that will become part of our battery electric fleet.

Comment: the existing articulated buses were bought used and refurbished, began operation in June 2014.

Q: I see buses will recharge at Broadway & Taylor. How many will recharge at a time? How long will they need to recharge?

There will be 3 active 450kWh chargers at Broadway & Taylor. A pantograph from the charger lowers to rails on top of the bus to deliver the charge. To maintain continuous operation of the #70 Grand, two chargers must be used to maintain an effective charge throughout the day. The third charger is a backup when one charger needs maintenance or if there is a component failure.

4.    What type of charging connector do buses use?

There are 22 150 kWh charging dispensers at the Brentwood MetroBus facility. These use a heavy duty plug type CCS type 1 built to the SAE J1772 standard. The depot chargers will “top” off the articulated buses at night and be the sole source of charge for the 40’ Gillig buses stationed there.

Comment: this is faster than even Tesla’s superchargers.

Two diesel 40-foot buses. The existing driver restroom in the back corner remains.

The North Broadway transit center will be an important part of the hopeful success of battery electric bus service.  Some other cities have had problems, Albuquerque returned 13 electric buses to the Chinese manufacturer and ordered diesel replacements for a BRT line.  Other cities didn’t build field charging locations like the North Broadway transit center.

My follow up questions were not answered. I’m still curious how different it’ll be from diesel buses. Will electric buses in service need to wait longer at North Broadway, or will the existing wait/break times give them enough charge? Do & will buses stay in service from begging to end of service, or do they serve part of the day with others taking over later?

I don’t normally have a reason to ride the 70/Grand, but I will at least once when the new electric articulated buses begin service.

— Steve Patterson

 

Electric Vehicles Aren’t An Option For Many Renters, Condo Owners

March 11, 2021 Environment, Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Electric Vehicles Aren’t An Option For Many Renters, Condo Owners

Hybrid vehicles have been for sale in the US for two decades now, thankfully recent hybrids are very different than the first Honda Insight. While I prefer the greener solution of using public transit, my husband has to have a vehicle for his job.

A friend’s 1st generation 2000 Toyota Prius hybrid that she bought new. October 2020 photo.

We bought our current 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited used in March 2018. It has been a good car, but the fuel mileage from the 2.5 liter four cylinder gasoline engine has been disappointing.

Our Hyundai Sonata in front of Broadway Oyster Bar, April 2018

When it’s paid off in two years I want our next car to be as green as possible. But what?

Now’s a good time to define some acronyms I’ll be using throughout this post.

  • Internal Combustion Engine (ICE):  An internal combustion engine (ICE) is a heat engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber that is an integral part of the working fluid flow circuit. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high-pressure gases produced by combustion applies direct force to some component of the engine. The force is applied typically to pistons, turbine blades, rotor or a nozzle. This force moves the component over a distance, transforming chemical energy into useful work.
    Examples
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV): A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a type of hybrid vehicle that combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) system with an electric propulsion system (hybrid vehicle drivetrain). The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle or better performance. There is a variety of HEV types and the degree to which each function as an electric vehicle (EV) also varies. The most common form of HEV is the hybrid electric car, although hybrid electric trucks (pickups and tractors) and buses also exist.
    Examples: Toyota Prius
  • Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PHEV): A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid electric vehicle whose battery can be recharged by plugging it into an external source of electric power, as well as by its on-board engine and generator.
    Examples:
  • Range-Extended Battery Electric Vehicle (BEVx): A range extender is a fuel-based auxiliary power unit (APU) that extends the range of a battery electric vehicle by driving an electric generator that charges the vehicle’s battery. This arrangement is known as a series hybrid drivetrain. The most commonly used range extenders are internal combustion engines, but fuel-cells or other engine types can be used.
    Examples: Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3 with range extender.
  • Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV):  battery electric vehicle (BEV), pure electric vehicle, only-electric vehicle or all-electric vehicle is a type of electric vehicle(EV) that exclusively uses chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs, with no secondary source of propulsion (e.g. hydrogen fuel cell, internal combustion engine, etc.). BEVs use electric motors and motor controllers instead of internal combustion engines (ICEs) for propulsion. They derive all power from battery packs and thus have no internal combustion engine, fuel cell, or fuel tank. Examples: Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, all Tesla models.

The above types are listed in order, getting greener as you move down the list. Now every manufacturer is promoting BEVs, General Motors and other vehicle manufacturers have pledged to go full BEV within this decade.  Numerous more affordable models are on the new & used markets.

When we got married in June 2014 a friend drove us to our reception in her new BEV, a Tesla Model S — a rarity at the time.

We just exited the Tesla Model S that drove us to Bevo Mill, June 8 2014

Before our wedding we even took a test drive of one, I told the Tesla rep we couldn’t afford one but they said to go out anyway.

Test driving a 2014 Tesla Model S, May 2014. I’m in the passenger seat because I need a spinner knob to safely steer a vehicle on public roads.

For this post I searched Auto Trader for a used Model S. Of the 1,621 results the cheapest is a 2013 with 124,459 miles for $21,000. Within 50 miles of our zip code there are 14 Tesla Model S, the cheapest is another 2013 with 71,609 miles, an asking price of $28,990.

Both are thousands more than what we paid for our current car, that was only 3 years old with less than 47,000 miles. Our credit union would finance such a purchase, but the interest rate is higher and the length of loan not as long. A well-used Tesla Model S still isn’t affordable to us.

A friend’s Tesla Model 3 on South Grand, October 2019

Maybe a Model 3? Of the 11 within 50 miles a 2019 with 26k miles is the cheapest at $34,990 Nationally 875 are for sale, a 2018 with 33k mile is the cheapest at $28, 492. No Tesla is affordable for us, but there are other BEV options.

Nissan Leaf BEV at the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show
Chevy Bolt BEV, 2016 Chicago Auto Show
A Chevy Bolt BEV charging at 620 Lucas in downtown St. Louis.

The Nissan Leaf came out a decade ago, the Chevy Bolt began with the 2017 model year. As the original purchaser enjoyed the tax incentives offered the used prices are well within our budget. Additional 4+ passenger used BEVs include the Kia Soul EV, VW e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq, BMW i3, and Mercedes B-class.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2014 Chicago Auto Show
BMW i3, 2015 Chicago Auto Show

The number of used BEVs in the St. Louis region is limited, but I’d be open to buying a California car and driving it home or having it delivered. The problem now with a BEV is charging it.

Most BEV owners charge at home, overnight. If you’ve got a garage this isn’t an issue, but for many out there it’s a huge obstacle. We rent and our car gets parked in a parking lot. We have a reserved space only because I’m physically disabled. At our previous loft we had an assigned space but the cost to get a charger to our spot would’ve been exorbitant. I doubt the condo has sufficient power to have chargers for even 20% of the cars.

I’ve owned properties before, but I usually parked on the street. At this point a BEV at any price just won’t work for us.  The next best thing is a PHEV— plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. As BEVs have decreased in price and range extended, PHEV sales have declined. The true benefits of a PHEV are only realized when you can change at home and drive 15-30 miles purely on battery power.

That leaves a HEV (hybrid) as my only choice. There are many hybrid choices these days, though I’m inclined to get a newer hybrid version of our car because the 2-position memory seat & mirrors feature is very nice when sharing a vehicle with a driver who’s significantly taller.

The issue of how renters & condo owners in the St. Louis region will charge BEVs/PHEVs in the coming years remains. High-end buildings in the central corridor may have difficulty getting enough power into owner’s assigned spaces. With 50-150 units/cars per association they’ll have major challenges as more and more residents want to plug in their BEVs overnight. At existing apartment complexes with surface parking lots the challenge will be the cost to set up chargers. Paying retail to charge at BEV at your apartment rather than adding the current to your existing electric bill could made operating a BEV very costly.

And before anyone mentions coal is dirty, BEVs charged with electricity generated by fossil fuels is still cleaner than ICE vehicles (source). Part of Ameren’s electric is generated by wind & solar. Additionally, half our electricity is generated by wind through Arcadia (referral link). Combined less than half our electricity is from fossil fuels. If we could get a BEV/PHEV and charge at our apartment I’d gladly pay the 1.5¢ extra per kWh for 100% wind power.

In the past BEVs were very expensive, but the electric vehicle has gone mainstream. GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, and other legacy vehicle manufacturers have pledged to go fully electric before the end of the decade. Toyota, whose Prius is synonymous with hybrid, will announce its first BEV next week.

Eventually battery technology will get to the point where charging won’t take overnight, but in the meantime someone needs to figure out how the masses without a private garage will charge their vehicle at home.

— Steve Patterson

 

Climate Change May Mean A Bleak Future For Today’s St. Louis Kids

September 23, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Climate Change May Mean A Bleak Future For Today’s St. Louis Kids

On Friday some in St. Louis took part in the global climate strike:

Hundreds of people took to the streets of downtown St. Louis to protest the failure of politicians and special interests to act despite mounting evidence of climate change’s accelerating and potentially devastating effect on life on the planet.    

The St. Louis demonstration, which started at City Hall, was part of the “Global Climate Strike,” a coordinated effort that drew hundreds of thousands to the streets of major cities worldwide. (Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis Climate Strike demonstrators heading east on Market. Photo by ill Horton Lenhard.

Globally, the day was large.

Millions of young people raised their voices at protests around the world Friday in a massive display meant to demand urgent action on climate change. Scores of students missed school to take part, some joined by teachers and parents.

Some of the first rallies began in Australia, and then spread from Pacific islands to India and Turkey and across Europe, as students kicked off what organizers were calling a Global Climate Strike.

In the U.S., where more than 800 marches were planned, thousands of young people are absent from classrooms so they can carry signs, march and shout slogans calling for a new approach to energy and emissions. (NPR)

This was to call attention to the climate crisis and the UN’s Climate Action Summit, concluding today.

In July I shared my pessimism  — we won’t take action on climate change in time. It’s already happening, but as the 21st century continues conditions will only get worse.

The following is from a recent article looking at how climate change will impact Houston, San Francisco, and St.  Louis over the decades remaining in this century. Below are the paragraphs specific only to St. Louis, Missouri, and Southern Illinois:

2020

This decade, St. Louis is expected to be more than two degrees Fahrenheit warmerthan it was, on average, during the latter half of the 20th century. While locals have endured more sweltering summer days, they have felt the change the most during the cold months. Missouri winters are warming fasterthan summers, springs, and falls.

Warmer air holds more water, which can lead to more severe rainfall. In recent years, rainstorms have pummeled the Midwest and led to widespread flooding across the region. In 2019 in St. Louis, rivers reached near-historic levels, and floodwaters inundated the areaaround the city’s iconic Gateway Arch.

This storm wasn’t a blip on the radar, but rather a sign of what’s to come. As the planet heats up, St. Louis can expect more extreme rainstorms— and more orders to evacuate low-lying neighborhoods.

2030

By 2030, temperatures are expected to have warmed around three degrees Fahrenheit in St. Louis. The kind of rainstorm that currently strikes the Midwest around once every five years will hit around once every three yearsthis decade.

“We’ve seen these record-breaking, devastating floods in the Midwest,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. “It’s not like they’ve never had floods before, but the floods are just getting a lot worse and a lot more frequent.”

This could mean trouble for local infrastructure. Rivers swell after heavy rains, and the rush of water can weaken bridgesby carrying away sediment from around their foundations. This could be a big problem in Missouri, which is home to hundreds of agingbridges, many of which have been deemed deficient. Climate change could mean even more heavy repair costsfor taxpayers.

2040

In 2040, St. Louis is expected to be four degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was at the end of the last century. While that may sound like a small number, it means big problems for the city. A small uptick in the average temperature could lead to milder winters, stifling summers and changing rainfall.

St. Louis will tend to see wetter springs and drier summers. That means the region will withstand heavier downpours, but it will also endure long stretches without a drop of rain. Despite the growing peril of major flooding, extended dry spells and rising temperatures will dry out the land. Drought will set in in Missouri, endangering farms.

And just remember — it will never be this cool again.

2050

St. Louis is expected to have heated up by more than five degrees Fahrenheit on average by the middle of the century. Hot weather will dry out soil. Past 2050, the Central Plains, including much of Missouri, can look forward to decades-long drought.

This drought will be especially disastrous for Missouri farmers. Growers will have to take more water out of underground aquifers to feed their crops, drawing down a limited supply of groundwater, often at great cost. This, in turn, could drive up the price of food.

2060

St. Louis is expected hit a six-degrees-Fahrenheit increase in its average temperature this decade. While this might be bad news for humans, it’s good for many insects, who love warm weather. Rising temperatures will bring disease-carrying mosquitoesto St. Louis’s doorstep. Missourians will have to be more vigilant about their health as the bugs could spread tropical viruses like Zika, dengue, and yellow feveraround the warming Midwest.

Climate change will also bring more deer ticks to St. Louis. Because warmer air can hold more water, as temperatures rise, so does humidity — and deer ticks thrive in humid weather. While ticks are little seen in Missouri today, later this century they will fan out across the state, potentially spreading Lyme disease. Those afflicted will endure fever, headache, and fatigue. They may see their joints swell or feel their face droop.

2070

In 2070, St. Louis is projected to be more than seven degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it was at the end of the last century. Before the decade is through, the city is expected to see eight degrees Fahrenheit of warming. Rising temperatures will have utterly transformed the weather in Missouri, making it virtually unrecognizable to current residents. The city will see around 20 fewer daysof frost each year than it does today, as well as around 20 extra dayswith temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat will be felt most acutely in neighborhoods short on trees and parks.

Outside the city, severe heat will cripple the growth of corn and soybeans at nearby farms. So will drought, which experts say will be worse than at any time in living memory. The state will endure more consecutive days without rain. When it does rain, however, it will pour. Warmer temperatures will produce more extreme rainfall.

2080

St. Louis is expected to be nearly nine degrees Fahrenheit warmer by 2080. The temperature will have changed so drastically that St. Louis no longer feels like the same city.

Around 2080, St. Louis will start to feellike Prosper, Texas, does today. This new St. Louis will be hotter and drier. Summer weather will go from balmy to sweltering, and the city will see much less rain during the warm months.

It’s not just that St. Louis will feel more like Prosper. It might start to look like it too. Animals that currently live around Prosper could head northward as the climate changes, searching for a new home that feels like their old one. At the same time, the shrubs and grasslands that stretch across north Texas could start to edge their way toward Missouri.

2090

St. Louis is expected to have warmed by almost 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a transformational change in the climate of the city. Rising temperatures could provoke a spike in violent crime— when people are hot, research shows, they tend to feel more aggressive.

By the end of the century, St. Louis will endure around 80 days per year where the heat index is above 100 degrees — compared to just 11 days at the end of the 20th century, according to Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“It’s really striking because historically those off-the-charts conditions have only occurred in the Sonoran desert region of the U.S., the California-Arizona border,” Dahl said.

In addition to extreme heat, the city will also endure severe drought, punctuated by the occasional supercharged rainstorm. The kind of downpour that currently strikes the Midwest around once every five years will hit around once every year or two. The most severe storms — the kind that currently show up once every 20 years — now arrive once every six or seven years.

Heavy rainfall will lead to flooding, and floodwaters will mix with raw sewage, helping to spread bacteria. Rains will also swamp homes and businesses, offering a place for mold to grow.

2100

By the end of this century, St. Louis is expected to have warmed by roughly 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter will scarcely look like winter. Summers will have gone from hot to unbearable.

During the hottest months, it will be so scorching that it will be dangerous to go outside for much of the day. People will depend more on air conditioners to stay cool, leading to bigger electric bills. Elderly people, particularly those who can’t afford to run an air conditioner, will face the risk of heat stroke and death.

The intense heat will take an immense toll on the local economy. Farms in Missouri and southern Illinois could see yields cut in half, ruining livelihoods.

In St. Louis itself, experts project that heat will stifle productivity by making it too hot to work. This could help cut the city’s economic output by around 8%.

No wonder so many teens are vowing to not have children until action is taken to slow/stop climate change. I’m glad to see them in the streets trying to get the attention of us adults. Sadly, too many of us are worried about profits, 401ks, etc to actually do anything.

I won’t live to see the worst of it, but some of them will.

— Steve Patterson

 

Urban Flooding May Be The New Normal In St. Louis Region

September 9, 2019 Environment, Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Urban Flooding May Be The New Normal In St. Louis Region

The St. Louis region is no stranger to flooding — from the slowly rising Mississippi River (think 1993) and from flash floods overwhelming creeks, rivers, and man-made drainage.

On the afternoon of Aug. 19, 1915, remnants of a hurricane reached St. Louis from Texas. Heavy and steady rainfall fell through the next day, dumping a total of 7.4 inches across the area. (6.85 inches on Aug. 20 remains the one-day record in St. Louis.)

The River Des Peres rushed from its banks, swamping long stretches of Delmar and Lindell boulevards, Manchester Avenue and other streets. People were stranded on the Wabash Railroad platform at Delmar (now a Metrolink station) by a seven-foot-deep current 200 yards wide. Firefighters reached them with ladders and used boats to rescue residents of Maple and Hodiamont avenues. (Post-Dispatch)

South on DeBaliviere Avenue from Wabash Railroad toward the Jefferson Memorial Building. River Des Peres flood of August 1915. [photo page 2, top]. Kinsey Collection. Photograph, 1915. River Des Peres Drainage Problem. [Report by J.W. Horner, 1916]. Kinsey Collection. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. SS 0740. NS 15188. Scan © 2007, Missouri Historical Society.
Their solution was a massive project to bury much of the River Des Peres and create a wide channel for the rest as it runs out to the Mississippi River.

More than a century later flooding is still a major problem in the region.

First, let’s talk about some definitions:

Flash Floods

These quick-rising floods are most often caused by heavy rains over a short period (usually six hours or less). Flash floods can happen anywhere, although low-lying areas with poor drainage are particularly vulnerable. Also caused by dam or levee breaks or the sudden overflow of water due to a debris or ice jam, flash floods combine the innate hazards of a flood with speed and unpredictability and are responsible for the greatest number of flood-related fatalities.

Urban Flooding

Flash floods, coastal floods, and river floods can occur in urban areas, but the term “urban flooding” refers specifically to flooding that occurs when rainfall—not an overflowing body of water—overwhelms the local stormwater drainage capacity of a densely populated area. This happens when rainfall runoff is channeled from roads, parking lots, buildings, and other impervious surfaces to storm drains and sewers that cannot handle the volume. (Natural Resources Defense Council)

The term “urban flooding” better describes what we’ve recently experienced in the region.

From July 22, 2019:

The ensuing floods inundated streets and businesses in Eureka, displaced residents from a University City apartment complex, caused sewage overflows and prompted a spate of rescues around the area for motorists stranded in high water.

In Eureka — no stranger to flood damage from the adjacent Meramec River in recent years — the intense, early-morning rain flooded streets of the Old Town business district. Police said they had no reports of injuries.

The flooding happened between about 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Monday, police said. The National Weather Service said local reports indicated Eureka received about 5.5 inches of rain overnight. (Post-Dispatch)

From August 14, 2019:

Flash floods that closed roads and delayed the start of the school year in Granite City are being blamed on the perfect storm: torrential rain, an outdated and inadequate storm drainage system, and political finger pointing.

A thunderstorm dropped between 5 and 7 inches of rain on the central and northern areas of Granite City Sunday night and into Monday morning, flooding the city and turning its roads into waterways. The southern part of the city received roughly 4 inches of rain.

“There was a deluge of water in a short time and the area couldn’t drain fast enough,” Madison County Chairman Kurt Prenzler said. “It was storm on top of storm.” (Belleville New Democrat)

From August 21, 2019:

Flash flooding causing water rescues and major problems for drivers. Video shows water covering 141 at Interstate 44 in Valley Park.

Police have blocked off 141 to keep cars from driving through the high water.

Most of the rescues dispatched for first responders were in the Valley Park and Fenton area. (Fox2)

Route 141 in Valley Park has routinely flooded, but one of the objectives of MoDot’s $25 million 141 at I-44 project, completed last year, was to reduce flash flooding — the contractor’s proposal included “Improved drainage to reduce the possibility of flash flooding.”

From August 26, 2019:

Flash flooding left drivers stranded and closed roads and highways across the St. Louis area Monday morning.

A flash flood warning was in effect during the morning commute for most of St. Louis County, the city and areas west. The warning was allowed to expire at 10:15 a.m. Some areas reported getting rain at a rate of 1-3 inches per hour. (KSDK)

Last week KMOV reported on a couple rebuilding their lives/home after the August flooding in Granite City. The couple didn’t have flood insurance — I’ll let them explain why they didn’t.

Michelle and Michael are working hard to put their home back together. They don’t have flood insurance because they said they are not in a flood zone and were told they didn’t need it.

“This has never happened in 25 years. Never,” Michelle explained. (KMOV)

It had never happened in 25 years and their home was not in a flood zone! Unfortunately, this is likely the new normal — non-flood zone areas will become overwhelmed by concentrated rains. Homes that had never flooded before will be flooded.

We’ve simply paved over too much land, our drainage systems can’t keep up when inundated with high volumes of rain. Do we invest in beefed up drains throughout the region? Do we begin to remove impervious materials to allow water to drain naturally?  Somewhere in between?

— Steve Patterson

 

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