With several rivers cresting at or near record levels this week, the Missouri State Water Patrol has rescued more than 100 people from flooded riverside homes.
ABC News took a ride with these first responders to get a first-hand look at the Meramec River's destructive reach. We saw homes swallowed up and water levels not witnessed in a generation.
"The water is actually high enough where we could actually be driving or operating a boat over a house," said Lou Amighetti of the Missouri State Water Patrol. "Same thing with power lines, street signs, street lights."
Floodwaters have driven thousands from their homes. But some have chosen to stay, including one man who the Water Patrol discovered had been living in his attic for days. ABC News didn't see him, but we could hear him.
"Everything's going to be okay for me, man," the homeowner said through the attic window in response to our offer of help.
So we continued on our way.
"For some residents, they've been there all their lives, they want to stay there," said Amighetti. "It's their property. They want to protect it."
With the crest of the Meramec and other rivers from Texas to Ohio, the worst flooding now appears to be over. But for many whose homes were inundated with water, the hard work has only begun.
In Eureka, Mo., ABC News found William Schmidt sweeping muddy water from his home.
"I'm going to squeegee it out, hose it down, and go back to living," said Schmidt, who has lived alongside rivers nearly his entire life.
In Pacific, Mo., where 180 homes and businesses were flooded, Jeff Snider was counting his blessings. Snider piled thousands of sandbags around the building that houses his realty company and had pumps going around the clock. After four sleepless nights, it appeared Snider had won his war with water by a "matter of inches."
"I'm grateful," said Snider, exhausted.
So were the people of Valley Park, Mo., where a $49 million levee that was completed three years ago protected thousands of homes from the Meramec's near-record crest.
But forecasters say flooding could remain an issue in several states over the coming weeks. With rivers already swollen, any additional significant rainfall could lead to a repeat of this week of misery.