Robert Criss | St. Louis Public Radio

Robert Criss

The 11 levees that failed last week during catastrophic flooding along the Missouri River were maintained by local associations or private owners, with just one inspected by the Army Corps of Engineers this year, KCUR and APM Reports has found.

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.”

It wasn’t that long ago that South Central Avenue in Eureka was swamped by historic flooding. Businesses along the commercial thoroughfare had to fight off several feet of water, which several damaged some longtime establishments.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 12, 2010 - Watching the video of crude oil spreading across the Gulf of Mexico triggers immediate worries about the ecological impact on the coastal states, but it also raises the question: What will the impact be here?

In a nutshell: higher prices for gas and seafood in the Midwest sooner, and later, questions about species of wildlife -- particularly migratory birds -- that make their way along the Mississippi River.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 17, 2008 - St. Louis is on pace to exceed the rainfall received in any year since 1871, when accurate record keeping began. This heavy rain and unwise development have caused serious flooding in practically all of our regional watersheds, large and small.

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.

With the opening of the bike path on the McKinley Bridge, residents have another way to monitor water levels. So far, predictions indicate that the St. Louis area is not in danger. 2008 300 pals
Tom Nagel | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 12, 2008 - Mississippi River towns north of St. Louis are bracing for flood levels just short of record 1993 readings, but many community officials remained hopeful Thursday that damage to homes and businesses will be minimal.

Luckily for the immediate St. Louis region, this area likely will be spared the brunt of any significant flooding, said a Washington University geologist.