The Great Flood of 1993

Uniquely extreme weather and hydrologic conditions led to the flood of 1993. The stage was set in 1992 with a wet fall which resulted in above normal soil moisture and reservoir levels in the Missouri and Upper Mississippi River basins.  The Great Flood of 1993 was wide spread covering nine states and 400,000 square miles, and lasting at some locations for nearly 200 days. 

These conditions were followed by persistent weather patterns that produced storms over the same locations. Their persistent, repetitive nature and aerial extent throughout the late spring and summer, bombarded the Upper Midwest with voluminous rainfall amounts. Some areas received more than 4 feet of rain during the period.  During June through August 1993, rainfall totals surpassed 12 inches across the eastern Dakotas, southern Minnesota, eastern Nebraska, Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.  Many locations in the nine-state area experienced rain on 20 days or more in July, compared to an average of 8-9 days with rain. There was measurable rain in parts of the upper Mississippi basin on every day between late June and late July. The persistent, rain-producing weather pattern in the Upper Midwest, often typical in the spring but not summer, sustained the almost daily development of rainfall during much of the summer.

From May through September of 1993, major and/or record flooding occurred across North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Fifty flood deaths occurred, and damages approached $15 billion. Hundreds of levees failed along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Transportation was severely impacted. Barge traffic on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers was stopped for nearly 2 months. Bridges were out or not accessible on the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa, downstream to St. Louis, Missouri.

In early July, Iowa was hit with numerous record rainfalls. Storm totals of up to 8 inches were again common. Record flooding occurred on the Skunk, Iowa, and Des Moines Rivers. The city of Des Moines, Iowa, was particularly hard hit by flooding on July 9th. The flow from these rivers combined with already near-record flows on the Mississippi River to push the stage at St. Louis up to a new record high stage of 47 feet on July 20th.

  

Surveying flood damage in Davenport, IA, July 4 

President Bill Clinton surveying flood damage in
Davenport, IA July 4, 1993.
Photo coutesy of the U.S. Government Printing Office 

 Photos of flooding in 1993 at various sites on the Mississippi River can be found here.


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