Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Evacuees Also Have Rush Hour Propane Threat Forces 11,800 to Leave Homes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Evacuees Also Have Rush Hour Propane Threat Forces 11,800 to Leave Homes

Article excerpt

For many, the knock on the door came before dawn. Then sirens started blaring.

So began the exodus of 11,800 residents from their homes - ordered early Monday by officials who worried that leaking propane gas might explode in a huge fireball.

The gas seeped from a flotilla of 51 propane tanks that bobbed near the flooded River Des Peres. As a precaution, officials evacuated residents in parts of south St. Louis as well as in Lemay and East Carondelet.

After two small fires at the site Sunday, authorities evacuated residents and closed all businesses within a one-mile radius of the Phillips Petroleum Co. tank yard, 8722 South Broadway.

Throughout Monday's early hours, people hurriedly packed enough clothes for as long as five days and left their homes, hoping they would have something to come back to.

"I've lived in this area since 1966 - in this house for nine years," said Ray Gaither as he stood in the driveway of his home in the 700 block of Pardella. He had just finished loading his truck with suitcases and a chirping parakeet.

Officials are uncertain how long the evacuation order will remain in effect.

The evacuated area in St. Louis is bounded by Robert Avenue on the north, Interstate 55 on the west, River Des Peres on the south and the Mississippi River on the east.

The area in St. Louis County is bounded by River Des Peres and Weber Road on the north, Avenue H to Paule Avenue on the west, and on the south and east by Lemay Ferry Road to Telegraph to Ripa and then Ripa to its dead-end near the Mississippi River.

Rita Henlon worried about more than just herself. Since 3 a.m. Monday morning, she had worked to pack medicine, records and clothing for the nine residents of the Villa Helen Marie Residential Care Facility in the 7700 block of Minnesota Avenue.

By 6:30 a.m., the group was on a bus headed for temporary shelter at the Cleveland Naval Junior ROTC High School, 4352 Louisiana Avenue.

Through the uncertainty, the residents had remained calm, Henlon said. She credits city Emergency Medical Care workers who assisted her in moving and American Red Cross personnel operating the shelter.

"They're doing really great," Henlon said. "We had two people helping for every resident."

People in the city's Patch neighborhood had heard the warning by the time National Guard troops and city police began going door to door.

"We're getting out all the clothes and food and human bodies," Mike Heaghney said. "I'd rather be flooded out of a home than blown out of one."

The evacuation was the second in three days. On Friday, officials evacuated a half-mile radius. Ultimately, authorities closed 400 companies, including Stupp Bros. Bridge and Iron Co. at 3800 Weber Road. The evacuation Monday took in more residential areas.

Union Electric Co. started turning off power in the area at 6 a. …

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