The Great Flood of 1993 occurred in the Midwestern states, along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries, from April to October 1993. The flood was among the most costly and devastating to ever occur in the history of the United States, with $26 billion in damages. The flood area affected around 30,000 square miles and was the worst flood in the United States since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the largest flood ever recorded on the Mississippi at the time.
The flood first began with above average rainfall and below average temperatures beginning in the summer of 1992, which resulted in above-normal soil moisture and reservoir levels in the Missouri and Upper Mississippi River basins. This weather pattern continued throughout the following autumn. During the winter, the region experienced heavy snowfall. These conditions were followed by persistent spring weather patterns that produced storms over the same areas. Soil across much of the affected area were saturated by June 1, with additional rainfall running off into streams and rivers, instead of soaking into the ground as it normally would.
Violent, persistent storms bombarded the Upper Midwest with heavy rainfall. During the late spring, both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers flooded, breaking 20 river-stage records. Over 1,000 flood warnings and statements were sent out to the public. In St. Louis, river levels were nearly 20 feet above flood stage, the highest level recorded in 228 years. Thankfully, the St. Louis Floodwall, which was 52-foot high and built to handle the 1844 flood, was able to keep the 1993 flood out with only two feet to spare. However, had it been breached, the whole of downtown St. Louis would have been completely underwater.
Emergency officials estimated that nearly all 700 levees built were overtopped or destroyed along the Missouri River. The flood also affected river commerce as well. Navigation on the Mississippi and Missouri River had been closed since early July resulting in a loss of $2 million per day.
Some locations on the Mississippi River flooded for almost 200 days, while various regions on the Missouri neared 100 days of flooding. The Missouri River was above flood stage for 62 days in Jefferson City, Missouri. The flooding affected North Jefferson City extensively, closing many of the highways and the airport. The women’s prison had to be evacuated and was never reopened. Highway 63 was closed, which required traffic to Columbia to be diverted through Fulton on Highway 54. The highest flood level was 38.65, the current record, which occurred on July 30th. This overwhelmed sandbags and barriers protecting the direct route from Cole county to Callaway county. By July 30, that direct access was gone. The Missouri River was 15 ft. above flood stage in the capital city.On October 7, 103 days after the flooding began, the Mississippi River at St. Louis finally dropped below flood stage. Approximately 100,000 homes were destroyed as a result of the flooding, 15 million acres of farmland inundated, and the whole town of Rhineland and Cedar City, were destroyed. The floods cost 50 lives and an estimated $15–20 billion in damages.