Ten rescue puppies at a St Louis-area shelter were killed after the city experienced extreme rainfall that led to widespread flooding on the wettest day in recorded history.
Between midnight and 7am Tuesday, more than eight inches of rain collected on the inundated streets and highways of the Missouri city, quickly surpassing its previously held record of 6.85 inches, set in 1915, well before the end of the day.
Before Linda Roever, the president of Stray Paws Rescue, arrived to work on Tuesday morning, she knew the outlook wasn’t promising.
In an update posted on the official Facebook account of the animal shelter based in St Peters, a suburb located about 30 miles northwest of St Louis, the non-profit warned hours before they’d even arrived that the office had likely suffered intense damage.
“SOS THIS IS THE STREET OUR BUILDING IS ON‼️,” the post began, while sharing pictures of the buildings with the waterline above front doorsteps and parked cars submerged alongside them. “Firefighters/rescue teams with boats are on the way to assess the situation with our animals. Highways are closed. Roads are closed. We are distraught. PRAYERS needed. FOSTERS needed. DONATIONS to fix this damage will be needed.”
Relaying the first few moments of Tuesday morning to KSDK, Ms Roever described how jarring it was to not hear the usual greeting of excited barks as she stepped through the door.
“When we got here, everything was pretty much floating,” Ms Roever said.
St Peters alongside St Louis hit record flood levels after Monday’s overnight storm, and though the rain had subsided by Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service warned that the effects of flash flooding could still be felt as less severe rainfall was forecasted for Wednesday and Thursday.
“The big dogs were about chest high in water,” the rescue’s president said, noting that the shelter at that point in time was housing about 25 dogs.
“The 10 puppies were the only ones that didn’t make it and that’s just because the water was too deep for them.”
“We will never get over this,” said board member Vicki Ferris in an interview with the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
Ms Ferris relayed how the team had recovered the bodies of four beagle mixes, whose mother had shifted to the edge of their crate, clinging to a wall to keep her head above water, two Aussie mixes, who were scheduled to be picked up by their foster families on Tuesday morning, and four Catahoula mixes, who had been recovered in the past week after being found abandoned.
“Fly high little ones. Our hearts are breaking,” the group wrote in a Facebook post updating the public about the puppies’ death.
The remaining 15 adult dogs and some cats were rushed to a neighbouring facility, the Animal Talk Medical Center in Wentzville, which will serve as the temporary home of the surviving animals for as long as the shelter needs to get back on their feet.
“We have the ability to hold them literally as long as she needs to,” said veterinarian Jacob Lucas in an interview with KSDK.
Some of the animals required medical attention when they arrived at the centre, with one particular pit bull mix dog suffering from a case of hypothermia that likely would’ve led him to the same fate as the 10 puppies had he not been brought over when he was, Mr Lucas said.
“We got him warmed up and some IV fluid,” the veterinarian said. “He’s lucky. He probably wasn’t too far beyond those puppies here.”
Officials at the shelter, which rents its main hub, were told on Tuesday that the landlord doesn’t have flood insurance for the building, leaving them to largely fend for themselves in the recovery effort.
Yet within hours of Stray Paws sharing about the tragedy that had struck their small, non-profit organisation, they found themselves overwhelmed by the outpouring of support the community had shown them.
By early afternoon on Tuesday, the adoption centre had collected $30,000 in donations and had received 100s of foster applications to take in the 15 dogs being housed at the local vet office.
“We can’t thank the community enough for coming together. The outpouring of love and support has touched our hearts and the animals more than you could possibly know,” the group wrote late on Tuesday night.
Water levels inside the building had begun to come down, they added, and a professional cleaning crew was set to be arriving on Wednesday.
Intense rainfall in the St Louis area is typically a once-in-500-years event, according to the NWS, but the climate emergency has caused extreme weather events – such as record-breaking rainfall – to occur with more frequency and more intensity in recent years.
In a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the agency found that large one-day rain events that typically used to occur once every 10 years are likely to become more common, as the heating planet is able to store more moisture in its atmosphere than it did at cooler climates.