Left to Right: States on the Upper Mississippi River rely on a "flood plain" designation... low land means, NO BUILD.  In time, cities begin to build FLOOD WALLS. That's great for Hannibal (for example) but hell for the next town down river. In time ALL FLOOD WALLS FAIL, as city after city builds walls which cripple the normal, shallow, flow of floodwaters. Instead, a catastrophic break in a flood wall washes away barns, homes, and even CITIES. 

Statistics, Stories, and Chronology from the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1993
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1993 Mississippi Flood CHRONOLOGY

 March 10

The National Weather Service predicts below normal precipitation for the summer: “but above average rainfall could mean flooding, given soil saturation, spring snow depths, and normal spring rains.”

 June 10

The first 8” rainstorms begin in Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minnesota

 June 20

The first dam bursts, submerging 100 homes to their rooftops on the Black River in Western Wisconsin. The upper 200 miles of the Mississippi River are closed to river traffic. Locks and Dams are not operating.

 July 5

The bridge at Keokuk closes.

 July 10

The bridge closes at Fort Madison, Iowa, which has experienced rain for 54 of 58 days.  830 miles of Mississippi River are closed to boat traffic between Cairo, Illinois and St. Paul, Minnesota. Over 100 rivers feeding into the Mississippi River flood by July 14.  Unprecedented high-water on the Missouri River, Des Moines River, Illinois, Iowa, Skunk, Rock and Raccoon rivers (all tributaries of the Mississippi River) promote the massive flooding of the Mississippi River.

 July 16

The last Quincy, Illinois, bridge is closed, leaving no bridge between Alton, Illinois and Burlington, Iowa. The Mississippi River is flooded to seven miles inland.

 July 24

The Mississippi River at Quincy crests at a record 32 feet.

 August 2

The Mississippi River crests at 49.7 feet in St. Louis, Missouri. Eleven times the volume of Niagara Falls is flowing under Eads Bridge; enough to fill Busch stadium every 65 seconds.

 August 24

The Mississippi River locks reopen to commercial river traffic.

 August 30

The Des Moines River floods again, after another 10 inches of rain falls.  The Mississippi River stays open.


Sandbags and Stuff
(Statistics collected from various regional newspaper sources.)

     What Happened to cause so much rain in 1993?

     Rain, too much rain, was the root of the problems. By July 15th, every area had a least twice its normal rainfall, some had six times as much. A high pressure system in the Southeast forced Gulf air to move north, hitting cool Northwest air. It stalled right there, continuing to produce massive rainfalls. It was the wettest June and July since 1895.  There were twelve major storms with rainfalls of 6 to 12 inches, 16,000 square miles of farmland were under water. Seventeen million acres were inundated during the flood.


Flood levels on the lower Mississippi River are almost beyond belief. Here, Rich is studying a flood level marker for several different years.Flood Projections for 1996: April 2, 1996

The National Weather Service issued a revised report on the potential for spring flooding on the Mississippi River. The report is considered to be a “worst case scenario” and projects that if normal precipitation falls and average temperatures prevail in the coming weeks, the Mississippi River could crest in La Crosse, Wisconsin at 15.5 feet…. 3.5 feet above the Mississippi River’s flood stage. If little precipitation falls in coming weeks, the crest could be lower, at 13 feet.  Heavy snow that fell over most of Minnesota and Wisconsin last week motivated the revised report. In addition, cold temperatures have delayed the snow melt, increasing the chances for a rapid melt in the north during April.


INSIGHT FEATURE: Remembering Valmeyer, Illinois and the 1993 Mississippi River Flood. For MORE on how river towns respond to flooding, order all four volumes of DISCOVER! AMERICA's GREAT RIVER ROAD.

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