How The Midwest Floods Compare To The 'Great Flood' Of 1993
Midwestern states were devastated by rare winter flooding all week, and overflowing rivers in Missouri and Illinois finally retreated on Friday. Started by three days of heavy rain last weekend, the floods drowned hundreds of homes in water and led Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to activate the National Guard. As rivers reached record-breaking levels, many remembered the Great Mississippi and Missouri Rivers Flood, also known as the Great Flood, but the recent Midwestern flooding didn't compare to the Great Flood of 1993 in many ways.
The duration of the Great Flood alone makes it stand out as an exceptionally bad natural disaster — it lasted from April to October, killing 50 people. The flooding also affected many more states, as North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois all experienced high waters. This week's dangerous waters caused 20 deaths and four people remain missing (two in Missouri and two in Illinois), so the death toll was high for such a short period of time. Not every area is in the clear yet, though, and forecasters expect the full waterways to cause trouble in southern states in the days to come, according to Yahoo News. If it continues, the death toll could rise, but nothing suggests that it will last for months on end.
Some parts of the Meramec River exceeded the 1993 levels by four feet and the Mississippi River is expected to top the old record by more than a foot this weekend, according to ABC News. Because of this, areas of flooding have been worse than in the '90s disaster.
On the other hand, hundreds of levees broke or failed along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in 1993, which contributed to the flooding, causing $15 billion in damages. This time, around nine levees were overcome by water and 19 were deemed highly vulnerable. A small levee in Ste. Genevieve County, south of St. Louis, Missouri, broke Thursday night, but the breach mostly affected agricultural land nearby.
An important distinction between the two floods is the time of year in which they took place. Because this week's flooding was in winter, low temperatures made it more dangerous for people and properties than flooding in warmer months. "This is not a summer flood, this is dangerous," Governor Nixon told CNN on Wednesday.
The National Weather Service called the Great Flood of 1993 the "largest and most significant flood event ever to occur in the United States" in 1996, and despite the destruction, the current floods luckily haven't reached the same level of impact yet.