Floodplain | St. Louis Public Radio


During the Great Flood of 1993, the Mississippi River climbed half-way up the grand staircase of the Gateway Arch to its highest level recorded in the city of St. Louis.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Twenty-five years ago, on Aug. 1, 1993, the Mississippi River crested in the city of St. Louis at the highest level ever recorded — 49.58 feet. By the time the water retreated, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers had topped or burst levees in nine states, killed 50 people and caused $15 billion in damage. Residents can still feel the impact of the watershed disaster a quarter of a century later.

SIUC faculty member Jonathan Remo, who was part of Monday’s “St. Louis on the Air” discussion of water policy, passes a barge while captaining a research vessel near Grand Tower, Illinois.
Jonathan Remo

Rivers have never been static things – least of all the mighty Mississippi. But the major waterway’s recent volatility has taken that natural characteristic to new levels.

“Even Lewis and Clark made measurements on how much the river level changed every day … and their journals are full [of] what those readings are,” Robert Criss, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University, said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “The river [is now] demonstrably more than twice as volatile [as] it was historically.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 14, 2008 - A recent day-long scientific meeting and forum on floods offered diverse perspectives on why floods and flood damages are increasing, and offered helpful remedies. The Center for Environmental Sciences at St. Louis University brought together experts in hydrology, meteorology, engineering, conservation, biology and environmental law.

Among the major conclusions that are well supported by data and seemed to be accepted by practically all speakers are :

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 8, 2008 - A damaging series of floods has afflicted St. Louis this year. This series started with the near-record Meramec River flood in March, continued with the Mississippi River flood of June-July, and hopefully ended with September's record flooding of local creeks that caused fatalities and damaged hundreds of fine homes, businesses and cars.

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.