Mississippi River: Physics of Flooding Emma pappas

Location of River: USA starting in Minnesota and along the borders of states Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Frequency of Flooding: severe floods occur every 10-25 years, however flooding is getting more frequent and more severe. Yearly flooding.

Meteorological Conditions: Some believe worsening of Mississippi River floods are due to a combination of changing climate and federal water projects over a century that have turned the river into a superhighway for shipping. Construction of locks, levees and weirs, critics say, has created a deep passageway for shipping that has unnaturally constrained the river, forcing floodwaters higher in times of heavy rain. Meanwhile, they say, warming temperatures are forcing more water into the atmosphere, leading to heavier rainfall.

1.) The Great Flood of 1844 is the biggest flood ever recorded on the Missouri River and Upper Mississippi River, in North America, in terms of discharge. The adjusted economic impact was not as great as subsequent floods because of the small population in the region at the time. The flood devastation was particularly widespread since the region had few or no levees at the time, so the waters were able to spread far from the normal banks. Congress in 1849 passed the Swamp Act providing land grants to build stronger levees.

2.) The Great Flood of 1851

Occurred after record-setting rainfalls across the U.S. Midwest and Plains from May to August, 1851. Hardest hit was the State of Iowa, with significant flooding extending to the Lower Mississippi River basin. Historical evidence suggest flooding occurred in the eastern Plains, from Nebraska to the Red River basin, but these areas were sparsely settled in 1851. Heavy rainfall also occurred in the Ohio River basin.

3.) Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) inundated up to a depth of 30 feet (9 m). To try to prevent future floods, the federal government built the world's longest system of levees and floodways. 94% of the more than 630,000 people affected by the flood lived in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, most in the Mississippi Delta. About 500 deaths and $9000 million in property damage. The flood began with extremely heavy rains in the central basin of the Mississippi in the summer of 1926. By September, the Mississippi's tributaries in Kansas and Iowa were swollen to capacity.

4.) Great Flood of 1951

In mid-July 1951, heavy rains led to a great rise of water in the Kansas River and other surrounding areas of the central United States. Flooding resulted in the Kansas, Neosho, Marais Des Cygnes, and Verdigris river basins. The damage in June and July 1951 exceeded $935 million in an area covering eastern Kansas and Missouri, which, adjusting for inflation, is nearly $8.52 billion in 2016. The flood resulted in the loss of 17 lives and displaced 518,000 people. Following this flood a series of levees and reservoirs were constructed throughout eastern Kansas. This new network of flood control structures helped to prevent widespread damage when the region was hit later by the Great Flood of 1993.

5.) Great Flood of 1993

Occurred in the American Midwest, 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 United States, with $15 billion in damages and 32 deaths. The hydrographic basin affected cover around 745 miles (1,199 km) in length and 435 miles (700 km) in width, totaling about 320,000 square miles.

6.) Thebes Flood 1995

Thebes, IL: Old record was 45.91 set in May of 1995. The river crested at a new record of 47.74 feet around 1 A.M. on January 2. The river crest would likely have been higher if the levee break had not occurred in Alexander County. According to Alexander County officials, about 125 structures were flooded, including approximately 50 to 60 homes. In Scott County, Missouri, an agricultural levee failed. No heavily populated areas were directly impacted by any of the levee breaches. There were numerous road closures. The roads reopened a week later. The Governor of Illinois issued a disaster declaration for some of the hardest-hit counties. A number of homes were flooded on both the Illinois and Missouri sides of the river. The city government of Cape Girardeau estimated 20 homes and 8 businesses were flooded in the Red Star neighborhood. Media reports indicated several dozen homes in Alexander County, IL were flooded.

7.) Iowa Flood 2008

The Iowa flood of 2008 was a hydrological event involving most of the rivers in eastern Iowa beginning around June 8, 2008 and ending about July 1. Flooding continued on the Upper Mississippi River in the southeastern portion of the state for several more days. Luckily no deaths, but $64 billion of damages. The Army Corps was forced to close the river to navigation, intermittently, from Lock and Dam No. 11 to Lock and Dam No. 25. As of Sunday, June 15, Locks 13 through 25 were closed, making 281 miles (452 km) of the Mississippi River inaccessible to commercial river traffic. Mississippi River traffic resumed on Saturday, July 5, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, as the final lock to be cleared for operation, Lock 25, reopened Saturday morning. A full recovery takes about 10 years.

8.) June 2008 Midwest Floods

The June 2008 Midwestern United States floods were flooding events which affected portions of the Midwest United States. After months of heavy precipitation, a number of rivers overflowed their banks for several weeks at a time and broke through levees at numerous locations. Flooding continued into July. States affected by the flooding included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. The American Red Cross assisted the victims of flooding and tornadoes across seven states and the National Guard was mobilized to assist in disaster relief and evacuation. The flood left thirteen dead and damage region-wide was estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

9.) Mississippi River Valley Floods 2011

The Mississippi River floods in April and May 2011 were among the largest and most damaging recorded along the U.S. waterway in the past century, comparable in extent to the major floods of 1927 and 1993. In April 2011, two major storm systems deposited record levels of rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed. When that additional water combined with the springtime snowmelt, the river and many of its tributaries began to swell to record levels by the beginning of May. Areas along the Mississippi itself experiencing flooding included Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. U.S. President Barack Obama declared the western counties of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi federal disaster areas. About 20 deaths and 2-4 billion dollars of damage.

10.) Valley Park Flood

In this aerial photo, flood water covers Interstate 44, Wednesday, Dec 30, 2015, in Valley Park, Mo. A rare winter flood threatened nearly two dozen federal levees in Missouri and Illinois on Wednesday as rivers rose, prompting evacuations in several places. The 1982 flood, like the 2015 flood, was a winter flood during an El Niño event. A three-mile-long levee had been built next to the river; a landfill partly in the river’s floodway had expanded; parts of the floodplain had been built up with construction fill and development along three small tributaries of the Meramec had destroyed riparian borders, so that they became torrents after a rain but no longer flowed continuously. Those communities bore the brunt of damage when the Meramec reached record-shattering flood levels at the end of 2015, cresting at 44.1 feet at Valley Park on Dec. 31 — nearly 5 feet higher than any recorded historical precedent, resulting in millions of dollars in damages.

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