Fighting History

Twenty years removed and the Great Flood of 1993 still stirs memories for those living along the mighty Mississippi River. As an example of the river’s power, empty foundations and farm fields stand where businesses and homes once sat in the village of Valmeyer. In contrast to the destruction wrought in Mississippi 20 years ago, across the river in Missouri investment in the development of the area is evident, especially in Chesterfield Valley, the home of two new shopping malls.

Unlike other areas, the St. Louis metropolitan area has invested extensively in the construction of their levees, according to an article by In most areas, levees were rebuilt to the levels they were before the Great Flood of 1993, and in other areas they have been built to even higher standards. Such construction has built the levees to a point where they can withstand a so-called “500-year flood.”

This has been proven more than once in recent years when the area suffered the fourth and sixth worst floods, respectively. The end result? The flood waters stayed on the river’s side of the levees. But according to some, the area could easily suffer a worse flood than what happened in 1993. If that is the case, then flood waters could easily breach even the highest of levees in the St. Louis area. And even though such a flood is not likely to happen, residents should be prepared nonetheless.

Local officials have more than just rising flood waters to keep in mind when designing levees. Another area of concern is oversaturation, with water of the earth comprising the levee walls. This can compromise the stability of the levee wall, causing it to lose strength and potentially cause a landslide. Luckily, levees built after the 1950s keep this saturation in mind, performing better for the most part than those not designed taking into account saturation and the through-seepage of water.

This leaves one to wonder if the current levees in St. Louis can withstand another Great Flood. Not only have local officials rebuilt the levees, sometimes better than before, but they have also sought to rehabilitate the whole flood system, including relief wells all along the shore of the Mississippi River, and closure structures along the levee wall. So far, officials have done what they can to prepare and hopefully it will be enough. Only time will tell.

For more information about lessons learned from the great flood of 1993, visit: