The Great Mississippi and
Flood of 1993 (or "Great
Flood of 1993") occurred in the American Midwest, along the
Missouri rivers and their tributaries, from April to
October 1993. The flood was among the most costly and devastating to
ever occur in the United States, with $15 billion in damages. The
hydrographic basin affected over around 745 miles (1,199 km) in
length and 435 miles (700 km) in width, totaling about 320,000
square miles (830,000 km2). Within this zone, the flooded area
totaled around 30,000 square miles (78,000 km2) and was the
worst such U.S. disaster since the Great Mississippi
Flood of 1927, as
measured by duration, area inundated, persons displaced, crop and
property damage, and number of record river levels. In some
categories, the 1993 flood even surpassed the 1927 flood, at the time
the largest flood ever recorded on the Mississippi.
1 Causes and progression
2 Costs and damage
3 Comparison with other colossal floods in
5 Further reading
6 External links
Causes and progression
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Above average rainfall and below average temperatures beginning in the
summer of 1993 resulted in above-normal soil moisture and reservoir
levels in the
Missouri and Upper
Mississippi River basins. This
weather pattern persisted throughout the following autumn. During the
winter of 1992–93, the region experienced heavy snowfall. These
conditions were followed by persistent spring weather patterns that
produced storms over the same locations. Soils across much of the
affected area were saturated by June 1, with additional rainfall all
running off into streams and rivers, instead of soaking into the
ground. These wet-weather conditions contrasted sharply with the
droughts and heat waves experienced in the southeastern United States.
Storms, persistent and repetitive in nature during the late spring and
summer, bombarded the Upper
Midwest with voluminous rainfall. Portions
Iowa received as much as 48 inches (120 cm) of
rain between April 1 and August 31, 1993, and many areas across the
central-northern plains had precipitation 400–750% above normal.
National Weather Service
National Weather Service (NWS) forecast area
Missouri and southwest Illinois, 36 forecast
points rose above flood stage, and 20 river-stage records were broken.
The 1993 flood broke record river levels set during the 1973
Mississippi and the 1951
Missouri River floods.
Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol crews from 21 states served more than 5,000 meals to
flood victims and volunteers, and their pilots logged more than 1,500
hours in the air inspecting utility lines and pipelines.
Over 1,000 flood warnings and statements, five times the normal, were
issued to notify the public and need-to-know officials of river
levels. In such places as St. Louis, river levels were nearly 20 feet
(6 m) above flood stage, the highest ever recorded there in 228
years. The 52-foot (16 m)-high
St. Louis Floodwall, built to handle
the volume of the 1844 flood, was able to keep the 1993 flood out with
just over two feet (0.6 m) to spare. This floodwall was built in
the 1960s, to great controversy, out of interlocking prefabricated
concrete blocks. Had it been breached, the whole of downtown St. Louis
would have been submerged.
Emergency officials estimated that nearly all of the 700 privately
built agricultural levees were overtopped or destroyed along the
Missouri River. Navigation on the Mississippi and
Missouri River had
been closed since early July resulting in a loss of $2 million (1993)
per day in commerce.
Illinois man, James Scott, 23 at the time, was officially convicted
for "intentionally causing a catastrophe" and sentenced to life
imprisonment for his role in causing some of the flooding across the
river from Quincy, Illinois. In an attempt to strand his wife on the
other side of the river so he could continue partying, Scott removed
several sandbags from a levee holding back the water. The breach
flooded 14,000 acres (57 km²) of farmland, destroyed buildings,
and closed a bridge.
Redwood River in
Minnesota began experiencing severe flooding in
May. On May 22, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, received 7.5 inches
(190 mm) of rain in a three-hour period. From May through July,
South Dakota received 22.55 inches (573 mm) of rain,
the wettest three-month period in its history.
As noted above, rains in
South Dakota contributed to flooding
downstream. In June, flooding occurred along the Black River in
Wisconsin, with flooding also starting to occur along the Mississippi,
Kansas rivers. Starting as early as June 7, reports
of levees being overtopped and levee breaks became common. These
breaches acted to delay the flood crests, temporarily storing excess
water in the adjacent lowlands, but the rain kept falling.
Mississippi River out of its banks in Festus, Missouri. The spot where
this photo was taken is nearly 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west and 30
feet (9.1 m) above the river.
In the beginning of June, the
Missouri and Mississippi rivers dropped
below flood stage and were receding. During the second week of June,
river levels rose to near flood stage before yet again beginning their
slow recession. By the end of June, the
Mississippi River was four
feet (1.2 m) below flood stage at St. Louis, while many other river
locations in the region were near flood stage. Precipitation for the
month averaged from one inch (25 mm) above normal in
to nearly four inches (100 mm) above normal in Springfield,
July brought more heavy rain to the
Missouri and upper Mississippi
River basins in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South
Dakota, Illinois, and Minnesota. Rainfall amounts of 5 to
7 inches (125 to 175 mm) in 24 hours were common.
Precipitation for the month averaged from one inch (25 mm) above
St. Louis and Springfield, to between six and seven inches
(150 to 175 mm) above normal at Columbia and
Water encroaching on the City of Alton, Illinois
From July 11 until July 22, the Des Moines Water Works treatment
facility was flooded by the Raccoon River. This resulted in the plant
being powered down, unable to provide running water for that period.
During this time the
Army National Guard
Army National Guard and
American Red Cross
American Red Cross set up
water stations, and the local
Anheuser-Busch distributor contributed
water in white six packs with their logo on it. Once running water was
restored, there was enough pressure for people to bathe and flush
toilets, but the water was not certified potable until July 29. The
final usage restrictions were lifted in August.
Major sandbagging activities took place along the higher Missouri
River des Peres
River des Peres in St. Louis, the
Mississippi River south
of St. Louis, and on many other tributaries across
Illinois. Some of these efforts were successful, while others were
not. The copious rain during July sent record-setting crests down the
Missouri Rivers, causing river gauges to malfunction
along the way. The record crests met within days of each other at
their confluence near St. Louis. Navigation on the Mississippi and
Missouri River was closed in early July, resulting in a loss of $2
million (1993) per day in commerce.
Mississippi River levels stabilized for a few days at April 1973
record stages. When the crest from the
Missouri River arrived, levels
rose again. The
Mississippi River broke through levees, drove people
and their possessions to higher ground, and caused havoc through the
The crests, now combined as one, moved downstream through
St. Louis on
the way to the Upper Mississippi's confluence with the
Ohio River at
Cairo, Illinois. Only minor flooding occurred below Cairo due to the
Lower Mississippi's larger channel below that point, as well as
drought conditions in the eastern U.S. If the
Ohio River watershed had
not been in drought while the
Missouri and Upper Mississippi were in
flood, the 1993 flood might have rivaled the 1927 flood in overall
damage on the Lower Mississippi, beyond Cairo.
Monument to the 1993 flood at
Jones-Confluence Point State Park
Jones-Confluence Point State Park at the
confluence of the
Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in St. Charles
County, Missouri, 400 feet (120 m) above sea level. The water
reached the top of the pole at 438.2 feet (133.6 m).
On August 1, levee breaks near Columbia, Illinois, flooded 47,000
acres (190 km²) of land, inundating the
Illinois towns of
Valmeyer and Fults. The released water continued to flow parallel to
the river, approaching the levees protecting historic Prairie du
Rocher and Fort de Chartres. On August 3, officials decided to break
through the stronger
Mississippi River levee to allow the water back
into the river. The plan worked and the historic areas were saved,
although some residential areas were flooded in counties above Prairie
Mississippi River at
St. Louis crested at 49.6 feet (15.1 m) on
August 1, nearly 20 feet (6 m) above flood stage. It had a peak
flow rate of 1,080,000 ft³/s (30,600 m³/s). At this rate, a
bowl the size of
Busch Memorial Stadium
Busch Memorial Stadium in
St. Louis would be filled
to the brim in 70 seconds.
Costs and damage
Some locations on the
Mississippi River flooded for almost 200 days,
while various locations on the
Missouri neared 100 days of flooding.
On the Mississippi, Grafton, Illinois, recorded flooding for 195 days,
Clarksville, Missouri, for 187 days, Winfield, Missouri, for 183 days,
Hannibal, Missouri, for 174 days, and Quincy, Illinois, for 152 days.
Missouri River was above flood stage for 62 days in Jefferson
City, Missouri, 77 days at Hermann, Missouri, and for 94 days at St.
Charles in the
St. Louis metropolitan area. On October 7, 103 days
after the flooding began, the
Mississippi River at
St. Louis finally
dropped below flood stage. Approximately 100,000 homes were destroyed
as a result of the flooding, 15 million acres (60,000 km²) of
farmland inundated, and the whole towns of Valmeyer, Illinois, and
Rhineland, Missouri, were relocated to higher ground. The floods
cost 32 lives officially; however, a more likely target is suspected
to be around 50 people, as well as an estimated $15–20 billion in
damages. Even after the water was gone, large amounts
of sand still covered the farmlands and homes.
Comparison with other colossal floods in
High water marks at Westport Landing on the
Missouri River in Kansas
City. The flood heights from top to bottom are 1993, 1844 and 1951.
ASB Bridge in background
Channeling and levee construction altered how the floods affected
various areas along the
Missouri River. Here is a comparison of Kansas
City data for the three big floods since the early 19th century.
Flood of 1844 – This was the biggest flood of the three in
terms of rate of discharge at Westport Landing in
Kansas City. It is
estimated that 625,000 cubic feet per second (17,700 m³/s) was
discharged in the flood. However, the crest on July 16, 1844, was
almost a foot (0.3 m) lower than the 1993 flood.
Flood of 1951 – The 1951 flood was the second biggest in terms
of rate of discharge at 573,000 ft³/s (16,200 m³/s). The 1951
crest on July 14, 1951, was almost two feet (0.6 m) lower than the
1844 flood and three feet (1 m) lower than 1993. However, the flood
was the most devastating of all modern floods for
Kansas City since
its levee system was not built to withstand it. It destroyed the
Kansas City Stockyards and caused
Kansas City to build
International Airport away from the
Missouri River bottoms to replace
the heavily damaged
Fairfax Airport in
Kansas City, Kansas.
Flood of 1993 – The 1993 flood was the highest of any of the
three but had the lowest discharge at 541,000 ft³/s (15,300
m³/s). While the 1993 flood had devastating impacts elsewhere, Kansas
City survived it relatively well because of levee improvements after
the 1951 flood.
Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir Bulletin" (PDF). US Army Corp of
Engineers. June 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-22. [permanent dead
^ a b c d e Larson, Lee W. "The Great USA
Flood of 1993". National
^ "High Water: Building A Global
Flood Atlas". NASA Earth Observatory.
^ Goodrich, Robert (August 16, 1993). "Watching Over: Civil Air Patrol
St. Louis Post Dispach. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
^ "Lewis & Clark Expedition",
St. Louis Founding, National Park
^ Verhovek, Sam Howe (August 2, 1993). "THE MIDWEST FLOODING; St.
Louis Defenses Contain
Flood As Crest Is Lower Than Predicted". The
New York Times. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
^ "Milestones". Time Magazine. December 19, 1994.
Illinois Times. January 19, 2006.
^ a b Lott, Neal (September 16, 1993). "The Summer of 1993: Flooding
Drought in the Southeast, Technical Report 93-04"
(PDF). National Climatic Data Center, NOAA.
^ Kaskaskia is inundated by flood of '93. Archived 2009-04-13 at the
Wayback Machine. (2009). History.com. Retrieved 07:30, Jul 20, 2009
Flood Of 1993". weather.com.
Stanley Changnon, The Great
Flood of 1993: Causes, Impacts, And
Responses, Westview, 1996. ISBN 0-8133-2619-2
Media related to Great
Flood of 1993 at