Rain and More Rain!

Much of the central part of the country, along with the Lower Mississippi, is currently experiencing dangerous high water. See up to the minute status reports for American rivers by clicking on our INTERACTIVE FLOOD MAP. Black triangles indicate serious flooding.

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This map is interactive and constantly updated by the USGS.

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Flooding of 2019 Now Compared to 1993

I am beginning to relive some of the trauma of life along the Middle Mississippi Mississippi during 1993. Valmayer, Illinois, is back in the news as the community works desparately to fill 25,000 sandbags, and flooding at the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi near St. Louis has caused widespread flooding. During 1993, which closed down commercial shipping on the river for many months, I traveled the river frequently. ALWAYS it was stomach-wrenching!

The Flood of 2019 has now been ongoing some 82 days… since MARCH for folks in the Middle Mississippi. As we watch the current flood peaking in the next week, and hear about “levee boils” and breaks in the levees, it is worth noting that in 1993, the first dam did not burst until June 20th in Wisconsin. It was August 2 before the Mississippi crested at 49.7 feet in St. Louis. Today, rains still fall from Oklahoma to Louisiana, impacting both the Missouri and the Lower Mississippi Rivers. 2019 has been a record flood in terms of the time it has been affecting those who live along the Mississippi and its tributaries.

First a Chronology of the Flood of 1993, compiled by Pat Middleton, Greatriver.com  

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 20The 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.)
These stats offer a base for comparison as states come out for the Flood of 2019.

  • Estimated that two truckloads of sand (a little less than fifty tons) will fill 4000 sandbags.
  • More than 26.5 million sandbags were used in towns along the Mississippi River during the Flood of 1993
  • Approximately 927 million pounds of sand was used to fill those sandbags
  • Homeowners had to fill their own sandbags
  • In all, 150 primary and secondary levees failed during the summer.
  • 12 billion dollars in damages
  • 48 deaths
  • nine states involved
  • 1 inch of water on an acre of land equals 27,143 gallons.

 

 

Midwestern Flooding

Much of the central part of the country is currently experiencing dangerous flash floods. See up to the minute status reports for American rivers by clicking on our INTERACTIVE FLOOD LINK in the category list to the right.

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Current Interactive Flood Map

Below is the USGS interactive map that provides REAL TIME info on which Rivers in the US are cresting. The map below is accurate every day. Black Triangles indicate flood stage. Looking to compare stats with the Flood of 1993? CLICK HERE.

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Drainage Map of the Mississippi River and its Tributaries. Some Facts and Figures

QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS!
For Jack, who wants to know more about all the tributaries of the Mississippi River: how many there are,  their names, and how long they are!

NPS.gov watershed tributaries

There are some 250 tributaries of the Mississippi which drain a total area of more than 1,247,000 square miles–one third of the nation’s landmass–extending from the Allegheny Mountains in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west!

Remember the Mississippi River Flood of 1993? It wasn’t just the Mississippi River flooding that wreaked havoc, it was that all those tributaries flooded as well! At one point, the volume of water flowing past St. Louis was eleven times the volume of Niagara Falls!!

We start here with quick facts on the Mississippi River and several navigable tributaries! Please follow links for a little more depth of historical interest and to see our collection of hand-painted maps!

The Mississippi River, from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, is approximately 2,348 miles long. The combined reach of the Missouri-Mississippi Rivers is 3,741 miles–a length exceeded only by the Amazon and Nile rivers. The Mississippi River has shortened by several hundred miles since the days of Mark Twain. Even today it varies 30-50 miles each year.

The widest navigable part of the Mississippi is Lake Pepin, on the Upper Mississippi, where it is approximately 2 miles wide. The average current flows from 1.2 miles per hour nearer Lake Itasca, and about 3 mi per hour nearer New Orleans.

Our Mississippi River Ribbon Map has been a best-selling Gift for many years. Lisa now offers her own custom ribbon map designs of both the OHIO RIVER and the Missouri River. Please click on any map image for more info on the map or the tributary. Or PHONE 888-255-7726 to order any map. Mention you saw it on greatriver.com for a one time 10% discount!   Click on map images for more info on the tributaries.

 

 

Continue reading

DAILY U.S.G.S. FLOOD ALERT MAP

arrow-clip-art-Arrow-clip-art-16CURRENT RIVER FLOOD ALERTS

Below is the USGS interactive map that provides REAL TIME info on which Rivers in the US are cresting. The map below is accurate every day. Black Triangles indicate flood stage. Looking to compare stats with the Flood of 1993? CLICK HERE.

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See more interactive maps by clicking the category in the list to right: INTERACTIVE MAPS

Official Flood Stats from August 2007 Rains in Minn/Wis

I recently ran across a number of stats presented by area scientists regarding the massive rains along the Upper Mississippi River last August. These rains produced unprecedented landslides in bluff country that resulted in seven deaths and several homes on both sides of the river sliding down onto the roads.

For more detailed stories, stats, photos, and reports from the August 07 flooding and landslides, see http://www.greatriver.com/natural/disaster/August07.htm

Official FLOOD STATS

15.1 inches of rain fell in Hokah, Minn., over a 24 hour period on August 19. The previous high was 10.84 inches set in 1972.

The Root River crested at 18 feet in Houston, Minn.  When compared with previous flooding events, the August ’07 floods had up to 5 times more rainfall.

Scientists report that the flood was so rare, the probability of its existence was once in 500 years, perhaps even once in 1,000 years. The storm’s wrath was comparable to a Category 5 hurricane.

Interestingly enough, the invertebrate count in large streams fell from about 4,000 per square meter to just 1000 after the flood. A specific amphipod, a staple of trout diets, dropped from about 250 per square meter to less than 10.

23.6 inches fell during the month of August, 9.5 inches shy of the average ANNUAL precipitation.

For more on the dangers posed by landslides on the 600 ft high bluffs along the Minnesota and Wisconsin border see our feature from Fountain City, Wis., When Bluffs Throw Boulders.  On April 5, 1901 a single boulder fell from the bluff face to smash a home and kill its occupant. Some 85 years later it happened again… in the same spot. This time, the Rock was left in place and is open to the public for viewing at the Rock in the House attraction on Hwy 35.

GEOLOGY 101… WHY Land Slides Happen along the Mississippi River Bluffs

    The bluffs of the “Driftless” region that stretches along the Mississippi River are formed of limestone bedrock covered by an ancient mix of clay and river silt. Under most conditions this is provides a solid base for home building, though most counties restrict building to a slope of 20-30%.  Homes that are built on “benches” may have much steeper areas above them (or below). Between 1998 and 2006, 205 homes and 10 condominiums were built in La Crosse County on slopes with between 20% and 30% slopes.

Historically heavy rain during the night of August 19, 2007, meant that water drained from the tops of the bluff to flow into the valleys. Water flowing over the rock faces probably fell like fabulous waterfalls (though I haven’t run across anyone who can claim to have seen it). This completely saturated the clay and silt which cover the bluffs.

According to a La Crosse Tribune story, as water particles fill the space between silt particles the silt and clay firstbecome “plastic” and then “viscous.” When “plastic” it will move when pressure is applied to it (such as the weight of a home). When “viscous” it begins to flow under its own weight… like a glacier, only much more quickly. This flow is what caused the collapse that is so visible in the bare canyons, and the mud and rubble along the base of the bluffs throughout the coulee region.

The soils may have been more vulnerable because the area was so dry, and the water fall so far beyond the historic record. The fact that residents remove the thick canopy of deep rooted trees and brush to plant grass may also have made the bluff sides more vulnerable, according to La Crosse County.

Aftermath?

Certainly many counties will be reconsidering restrictions on developing bluff side slopes. Onalaska currently restricts building on slopes of more than 20%, Holmen restricts building on slopes over 12%, La Crosse 30%, town of Bergen restricts development at 20% but does allow building on “benches.” Winona currently restricts building on slopes greater than 15%.

Many researchers point to increasingly severe droughts, rain and heat as the by-product of global warming. So can we expect more such rains? The experts do think so.

More!

Chronology of the Rains in August 2007

When Boulders Roll … Landslides on the River

The Floods of 1993 and 1996

Return to the Mississippi River Home Page at www.greatriver.com