Severe flooding continues today along parts of the Mississippi River and its tributaries today. Flood Warnings remain in effect across the nation’s midsection as river heights approach historic levels. While many of the region’s flood gauges crested yesterday, the flooding and its associated hazards continue. Those who live near the Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau in southern Illinois and southeast Missouri prepared for an onslaught this weekend. The Mississippi River at that location crested late Saturday morning at 46 feet near Cape Girardeau, just a few feet shy of its record high crest of 48.9 feet. Despite it being over 24 hours since the crest, the river has yet to drop significantly and as of 3pm local time is at 45.6 feet. The Mississippi is expected to remain above flood stage here into next weekend.
This origins of this event lie primarily in a strong spring storm system that brought multiple rounds of thunderstorms and heavy rain to portions of the Midwest during the weekend of April 29th and 30th. This system also produced tornadoes and other severe weather across the Midwest and South. Rainfall totals surpassed nine inches in some locations and this led flash flooding and eventually historic flooding along some of the tributaries of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Additional rainfall from subsequent events last week only made the flooding worse. The reason why the Mississippi is just cresting now, a week following the initial heavy rain is because many smaller rivers flow into it. “The smaller rivers always recede sooner. A small creek would rise fairly quickly, and will come down fairly quickly,” said Mark Fuchs of the National Weather Service in St. Louis. “Eventually, that water goes out to the larger river, which is the last thing to rise and the last thing to crest,” Fuchs said.
The Mississippi River has flooded on numerous occasions in the past with the first documented event occurring in 1543. The greatest flood along the river basin occurred 80 years ago in 1927. This event led to the Flood Control Act of 1928 which in turn led to the world’s longest system of levees being built. In more recent memory the river flooded in 1993 which was considered the worst since the 1927 event as measured by duration, square miles inundated, persons displaced, crop and property damage and number of record river levels. Just six years ago another major flood occurred and for only the second time in 38 years, the Morganza Spillway has been opened, deliberately flooding 4,600 square miles of rural Louisiana to save most of Baton Rouge and New Olreans.
Flooding has ravaged communities near St. Louis due to cresting of the Meramec River, which runs into the Mississippi River. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri posted video Friday from a helicopter showing flooding in Eureka, a suburb of St. Louis. In addition to property damage, we have also seen a loss of life. This flooding event has already claimed the lives of six people in Missouri and seven in Arkansas, including a 10-year-old who was swept away while climbing a fence to avoid the water. As mentioned, while mainly dry weather is in the forecast into the middle of the week, major flooding will persist. High water levels will continue to impact travel along the Mississippi River as navigation and port operations are compromised and the cost of the flood continues to rise.
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