Flood of 1993 | St. Louis Public Radio

Flood of 1993

I-55 and westbound I-44 reopen as floodwaters recede

May 4, 2017
Waters continue to rise around I-55 near Butler Hill on Wednesday morning. May 2017
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated May 4 at 7 p.m. with information about West Alton — Officials with the Rivers Pointe Fire Protection District are urging residents east of Highway 67 in West Alton who plan to evacuate, particularly those who are elderly or have a disability, to do so immediately. Those planning to ride out the flooding, officials said in a Facebook post, should secure provisions.

Family, friends and volunteers from St. Louis help Arnold, Mo. residents combat area flooding
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Patty Titus, 57, stood at the edge of the Meramec River in Arnold as it ran up the side of her house and poured into her basement. It’s the house she grew up in, and she’s lived there for more than 50 years. As Titus watched the water rise, she listed the family heirlooms she’s lost.

“All my parents stuff, dishes, furniture, lost my freezer, my refrigerator, things that can’t be replaced. A lot of memories and things,” she said.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

In the summer of 1993, flood waters from the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers broke levee after levee in the St. Louis region, covering large swathes of land, destroying property, disrupting lives and creating hazardous conditions.


It's been twenty years since the Great Flood of '93 swelled the Missouri River to record-high crests.  Since then, levees have been upgraded, flood preparations improved, and in a few places, communities bought out and relocated.  St. Louis Public Radio's Marshall Griffin visited some sites along the river in central Missouri and talked to people who battled the flood waters in 1993, and who still keep an eye on the river today:

Flooding damages north Jefferson City & triggers buyout of Cedar City

(Courtesy of the Post-Dispatch, photo by Renyold Ferguson)

Twenty years ago, the flood of 1993 changed lives up and down the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Fifty-five thousand homes and 33,000 businesses were destroyed. Fifty people were killed. Damages totaled in the billions.

But in the midst of the devastation, there were moments of joy, too.

For two former soldiers in the Missouri National Guard, the flood of 1993 marked the start of their lives, together.

This is their story

20 Years Later: Sounds And Stories Of The Great Flood Of 1993

Aug 6, 2013
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

In what has become known in the St. Louis region as "The Great Flood of 1993," 20 years ago places where floodwaters had never been suddenly were underwater.  

From our archives, we offer an opportunity to go back in time with 10 stories of the rise of water, tension and even an entire town.

For some, these stories may be difficult to hear again and, for others, they will be reminders of triumph and renewal.

A view of the floodplain from Valmeyer's Rock City development.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Dennis Knobloch, then the mayor of Valmeyer, said he didn’t grasp the magnitude of the flooding that had engulfed his village in those first days of August 1993 until he and Monroe County officials surveyed the scene by helicopter.

"It was like flying over an ocean,’’ he said. "It was water from the Illinois bluff to the Missouri bluff, which is 4 miles apart here. It is hard to comprehend.’’

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon:Most springs, nature sends a reminder to the residents of the St. Louis region that they live at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri, two major American rivers that have the potential to rise up and storm the levees.

Dennis Knobloch stands in the field where his house was before the flood of 1993.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Lush, green soybeans now populate the plot of good earth where Dennis Knobloch’s house once stood on Main Street in Valmeyer, Ill. -- before the Mississippi River busted through a levee and swallowed the town whole during the Great Flood of ’93.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON — "An enormous ditch ... running liquid mud" is how novelist Charles Dickens described the mighty Mississippi River after his brief visit to St. Louis in the 1840s.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When bleary-eyed David R. Busse plugged the latest river levels and rain forecasts into his hydrology calculations in mid-July 1993, he came to a startling conclusion: The floodwaters surging down the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers would converge in St. Louis at the highest level ever recorded.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 19, 2008 - The Great Flood of 1993 was a "200-year" flood at St. Louis and a "500-year" flood at many places upstream, according to the Army Corps of Engineers (2004) flow-frequency study. Incredibly, not quite 15 years later, the Great Flood of 2008 was another "200" or "500" year flood in northeast Missouri and set all-time record stages in southern Iowa.

Analysis: Don't rebuild on the floodplain

Jul 21, 2008
Photo by Robert Criss

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 21, 2008 - According to George Bernard Shaw, "We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future."

How can we apply this wisdom to the flooding challenges in St. Louis area? The Great Flood of 1993 - deemed the most destructive flood in recorded history - caused nearly $16 billion in damage. Yet, the St. Louis area is in the forefront of floodplain development, with half of it occurring on floodplains that were under water in 1993.