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1993 Floods in Mississippi

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Introduction

h/w Monday, 25 November 2002 Case Study: 1993 Floods in Mississippi For an incredible 144 days, the people of Mississippi, but more specifically St. Louis lived in fear. The gigantic Mississippi River was above flood stage between the 1st of April 1993 and the 30th of September later on the same year. The events between created the largest floods in the USA and devastated an area larger than the UK. The Midwestern streams that were flooded were the Mississippi, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Des Moines, and Wisconsin. These streams rose higher and higher by the day, but the National Weather Services had already predicted below normal precipitation for the summer, but above average rainfall meant flooding. Despite this, the first heavy rainfalls started in Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. This was followed by the upper 200 miles of the Mississippi River to be closed to traffic. Around 100 homes were under water, as the first dams burst. Between the 5th of June and the 16th of June, the Keokuk and Fort Madison bridges in Iowa had to be closed. As were the Quincy II, Alton and Burlington bridges. By now the river had spread an impressive seven miles inland. ...read more.

Middle

Barge traffic was halted for two months; carriers lost an estimated $1 million per day. Some power plants along the river saw their coal stocks dwindle from a two-month supply to enough to last just 20 days. Hundreds of miles of roads built on the flat, wide floodplain were closed. Flooding is estimated to have cost approximately $500 million in road damage alone. But why did this flood occur? Was there not a way to stop or predict it? There are four main reasons why they did occur: 1. The flooded region received higher than normal precipitation during the first half of 1993. Much of the area received over 150% of normal rainfall. 2. Individual storms frequently dumped large volumes of precipitation that could not be held by local streams. The map shows rainfall in Iowa over a two-day period. 3. The ground was saturated because of cooler than normal conditions during the previous year less rainfall was absorbed by soils and more ran-off into streams. 4. The river system had been altered over the previous 100 years by the draining of riverine wetlands and the construction of levees. ...read more.

Conclusion

Army Corps of Engineers were given directions to construct levees on the Mississippi River following flood in the 1930's. However the levees were bound to fail because the flood water rises over the top of the structure or the levee collapses under the weight of the water. Levees and floodwalls protect people on the floodplain from most floods. However, they may not protect against the largest floods with recurrence intervals of more than 100 years. Over 9,300 km of levees were damaged following the 1993 flood. Only 17% of federal levees were damaged, but up to 77% of locally constructed levees failed. Most of these occurred south of St. Louis despite being protected by a massive floodwall. The wall developed a leak but held up over the length of the flood. Over 50 propane tanks containing over a million gallons of gas in south St. Louis gave the threat of a massive explosion. A levee break south of the city allowed the river level to drop around St. Louis and reduced pressure on the propane tanks. Many of the smaller levees in rural areas, however, failed. Once the flood did occur, people also used sandbags. An estimated 26.5 million sandbags were used weighing about 331000 tons in total. ...read more.

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