In 1992, a rain-soaked fall season left the Missouri and Mississippi River basins ripe for flooding heading into the spring of 1993. Unrelenting rains during that spring and summer in many of the same areas brought those river levels to record highs. When the banks of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers were topped, more than 100,000 homes were destroyed and 15 million acres of farmland were inundated with floodwater, resulting in an estimated $15 billion to $20 billion in damages. The devastation proved so great that entire towns had to be relocated.
Flood of '93 Timeline:
The Mississippi River Basin (in which more than half of the Continental United States feeds into the Mississippi River via smaller rivers and tributaries), begins seeing higher than average rainfall. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rainfall in April 1993 hits 4 inches, one full inch above the average.
Rainfall in the Mississippi River Basin hits 5 inches for the month (average: below 4 inches).
Rainfall in the Mississippi River Basin hits 7 inches for the month (average: 4 inches).
The U.S. Coast Guard closes boat navigation on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers for the St. Louis region in early July.
Rain falls 20 days or more in many Midwestern states, compared to the average of 8 or 9 days, according to the NOAA.
The Mississippi River Basin records nearly 7 inches of rain for the month (average: 4 inches).
July 12 - Mississippi River crests at St. Louis at about 43 feet.
July 22 - Levees near Kaskaskia, Illinois fail, forcing the entire town to evacuate.
July 27 - The Missouri River crests at Kansas City at 48.87 feet.
August 1 - the Mississippi River at St. Louis crests at 49.58 feet, setting a new flood stage record. Other flood stage records would be set this day in Winfield, Missouri (39.6 feet), Alton, Illinois (42.72 feet) and Grafton, Illinois (38.17 feet).
Levees break near Columbia, Illinois flooding the towns of Valmeyer and Fults.
As rising floodwaters approach levees around Prairie du Rocher and Fort de Chartres, authorities decide to blow the nearby Mississippi River levee to allow water to flow back into the river. The move would ultimately save both towns.
Rainfall in the Mississippi River Basin nearly tops 7 inches for the month (average: below 4 inches).
Ultimately, the Corps of Engineers reports 12 of the 42 federal levees in the St. Louis district either failed or were overtopped. Thirty-nine of the 47 non-federal levees in the St. Louis district met the same fate.
Sources: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, National Weather Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
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