Destroyed By ’93 Flood, This Village Likely Spared St. Louis a Major Disaster

A welcome sign in Valmeyer, Illinois, which was relocated after the Great Flood of 1993.

A welcome sign in Valmeyer, Illinois, which was relocated after the Great Flood of 1993. AP File Photo / Tom Gannam


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | A major train derailment in Pittsburgh; Florida’s red-tide crisis … Boston’s new top cop … and the plan to carve a new city out of Baton Rouge.

Good morning, it’s Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. Leading Route Fifty’s state and local roundup, unfortunately, are disasters, including the ongoing wildfires in California and the 25th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1993. Scroll down for more, including stories from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Taunton, Massachusetts.

DISASTERS | It’s been 25 years since the Great Flood of 1993 on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers brought record flooding to the St. Louis area. Downriver from St. Louis is Valmeyer, Illinois a small farming community that was built in the Mississippi River’s floodplain and was inundated by the river when nearby levees failed. But the levee breach on the Illinois side of the river relieved pressure on St. Louis’ flood protections and averting a larger disaster in Missouri’s second-largest city, where the high-water mark stands at the 49.58 feet set on Aug. 1, 1993. But Valmeyer and nearby communities in the floodplain would be submerged for weeks. The town would be relocated about two miles away on bluffs safely out of reach of the Mississippi River, but Valmeyer’s old streets still exist down on the floodplain. But if you look around on Google Street View, the landscape is mostly devoid of buildings. [St. Louis Public Radio; Republic-Times]

  • Clear Lake, California: The Mendocino Complex wildfires in Northern California on Sunday morning became the fifth-largest blaze in state history, burning upwards of 254,000 acres. It’s the most serious of the numerous wildfire currently burning across the state. During a visit to the wildfire zone in Shasta County this weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown said he is open to the state improving the delivery of emergency alerts to the public. [CalFire; Los Angeles Times; Sacramento Bee]

INFRASTRUCTURE |  A Norfolk Southern train derailed in Pittsburgh on Sunday sending double-stacked freight cars onto the light-rail tracks adjacent to the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s Station Square stop. The damage and severed access to and from the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel, which carries light-rail and buses in and out of Pittsburgh’s central business district. “We came very close to having a tragedy, as close as it was to the T station,” Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said. Local officials warned commuters of transportation challenges as the derailment is cleaned up and T light-rail service is restored. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

  • Phoenix, Arizona: Valley Metro, the Phoenix-area transit provider, is partnering with Waymo on a pilot project to see how autonomous vehicles can fill transportation gaps. [Smart Cities Dive]
  • Kitsap County, Washington: A rare misspelled street sign was produced by the county’s one-woman sign fabrication shop and was installed without anyone noticing—”Neveda Street” instead of “Nevada Street.” The minor incident highlights something about street signs: In Kitsap County, Lynn McLean replaces approximately 2,000 street signs annually due to vandalism. [Kitsap Sun]

PUBLIC SAFETY | Boston Police Commissioner William Evans has retired after nearly four decades on the force. Taking his place will be William Gross, the city’s first African-American police commissioner, who will be sworn in on Monday. Gross, the police department’s superintendent-in-chief, has been on Boston’s police force for 33 years, working in the drug and gang control units and as as a patrolman in several areas of the city, [NECN; The Boston Globe]

  • Houston, Texas: A grand jury in Harris County on Friday indicted an international chemical company, the CEO for its North American operations and plant manager on charges that they “all played a role in ‘recklessly’ releasing chemicals into the air, when Arkema North America’s plant in the Houston area exploded in a series of chemical fires after Hurricane Harvey flooded the facility. [Texas Tribune]
  • Chicago, Illinois: At least 40 people were shot in separate incidents in Chicago from 11 a.m. Saturday through Sunday morning. Sixteen of those shot were teenagers while 12 were age 17 or younger. [Chicago Tribune]
  • Portland, Oregon: Despite conflicts in the city’s Waterfront Park where police launched flash bangs and pepper balls at anti-fascist protesters, expected confrontations between that group and the right-wing Patriot Prayer  remained mostly peaceful. [Willamette Week; Oregonian /]
  • Fresno, California: Hundreds of people turned out for a memorial service in downtown Fresno on Saturday to honor Brian Hughes, a firefighter killed July 29 during the Ferguson Fire. [Fresno Bee]
  • Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: An MD-87 firefighting aircraft operated by a private company that contracts with the U.S. Forest Service took off from northern Idaho last week, encountered mechanical problems upon take off and is believed to have sparked eight small wildfires in the process. [Boise State Public Radio]
  • St. Paul, Minnesota: Art Blakey Jr., the longtime police chief of the Minnesota State Fair and the first African-American sworn officer in the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, died at his home on Saturday. He was 83. [Pioneer Press /]
A red-tide warning sign near Naples, Florida (Shutterstock)

PUBLIC HEALTH | The toxic red-tide crisis in Florida’s coastal waters, which has been killing sea turtles and manatees and sending humans to the hospital due to exposure, has again shined a light on discharges from nutrient-rich Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. "We're getting water temperatures in the low-90s everyday right now, right at this location," according to John Cassani of the non-profit Calusa Waterkeeper. "You add the extra nutrients, the extra warm water, it just exploded." [WWSB]

  • Dallas, Texas: Politics and loose state laws have allowed opting out of vaccinations to rise, “making some areas in North Texas breeding grounds for outbreaks of diseases long thought eradicated.” [Dallas Morning News /]
  • Hamilton County, Ohio: Fentanyl isn’t only being mixed with heroin with dangerous results. Local officials in the Cincinnati area have noted an increase in overdoses linked to fentanyl being mixed with meth and cocaine. [WCPO]  

CITY HALLS | Advocates of carving out part of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana into a newly formed city that would be called St. George continue to gather signatures and support for a public vote on the matter, but “the movement's opponents are investing more money and energy after staying relatively quiet over the campaign's first few months.” [The Advocate]

  • Taunton, Massachusetts: Mayor Thomas Hoye Jr. says the city is putting together a legal strategy to challenge a recent ruling by the U.S. First District Court of Appeals which upheld Environmental Protection Agency limits on nitrogen that would require major action by city’s water treatment plant in order to comply. [Taunton Gazette]
  • Chicago, Illinois: Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced $10 million worth of work that will improve a section of the Chicago Riverwalk. [Curbed Chicago]

STATE GOVERNMENT | Maine Gov. Paul LePage is peeved with the commonwealth of Massachusetts over “what he sees as a couple of different issues with Massachusetts’ adherence to the memorandum of agreement the two states approved in 2015 regarding out-of-state toll deadbeats.” [Boston Herald]

  • Albany, New York: In an announcement late last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to advance state legislation that will remove the death penalty from state law, “in solidarity with Pope Francis and in honor of my father,” the late Gov. Mario Cuomo. [Gov. Andrew Cuomo]
  • Little Rock, Arkansas: A state Freedom of Information request shows that of largest pay raises for 28,000 Arkansas state employees, 23 staffers are getting pay hikes that surpass $10,000. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / ArkansasOnline]
  • Cheyenne, Wyoming: “Amidst the most divisive political climate since the Civil Rights Era, Wyoming could play a critical role in shifting America’s cornerstone of conservation without bringing down the house.” [Casper Star-Tribune]

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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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