Over the course of a three-month period in the summer of 1993, a slow-moving and historic flooding disaster unfolded across the midwestern United States, leaving economic ramifications that would be felt for years to come. Over 17 million acres were flooded across nine states across the Midwest during the summer of 1993, starting in June and lasting through August. This is an area larger than the entire state of West Virginia. “The magnitude and severity of this flood event was simply overwhelming, and it ranks as one of the greatest natural disasters ever to hit the United States,” said Lee Larson, chief at the Hydrologic Research Laboratory. This long-duration river flooding caused hundreds of levees failures, 50 fatalities and an estimated $15 billion in damages. While the worst of the flooding occurred in the summer of 1993, impacts across the region lasted for years. Of the 17 million acres that were flooded, a majority was being used as farmland. This had a long-term impact on the industry as some of the land was not able to be used again for farming for several years after flood waters had receded. Shipping and transportation industries were also severely impacted during the height of the flooding. Barge traffic on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers was stopped for nearly two months. The inability for ships and barges to navigate the waters of these major waterways resulted in an economic loss of $2 million per day, according to the National Weather Service. High water also rendered some bridges that spanned across the Mississippi River unusable for weeks, disrupting travel across the region. In some cases, this meant taking a detour of over 100 miles just to make it to the other side of a flooded river. The historic flooding was not caused by one single rainfall event, but rather an extended period of above-normal rainfall across the same region. 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 wet autumn was followed by above-average snowfall during the winter. When all of this snow melted in the spring, it left the ground across the region saturated and prone to flooding. The focus of the flooding on July 19, 1993 was St Louis Mo, where the Mississippi river rose to 46.8 feet at were flood stage is only 30'. It was the high-water mark in St Louis and flooding extended from the Gateway Arch to the suburbs.
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