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Fatal Flood

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Maps: Comparing Floods

Residents along the Mississippi River are no strangers to overflows and flooding during the spring thaw and rains. Since the early 18th century, settlers have built levees and floodwalls along the 2,000 mile long waterway to try and control it. However, in years with record-breaking rainfall, like 1927 and 1993, trying to tame the river becomes impossible. Mark Twain wrote that if the Mississippi were a "little European river... it would just be a holiday job... to wall it, and pile it, and dike it, and tame it down, and boss it around... But this ain't that kind of a river."

Flood of 1927

Flood of 1927The Mississippi and its swollen tributaries reached peak levels in April of 1927 and overflowed their banks. One by one, levees built to contain the river broke, and a wall of water pushed its way across Midwestern farmlands. The flood covered 27,000 square miles, an area about the size of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined. For two long months the water would remain above flood stage, leaving hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes.

Flood of 1993

Flood of 1993The flood of 1993 was one of the most devastating floods in United States history. More than double the normal amount of rainfall fell in the Midwest during the first half of the year, flooding over 16,000 square miles in nine states. Major flooding was confined to the Upper Mississippi due to the less than average level of inflow from Lower Mississippi tributaries.

Statistical Comparison

1927 FLOOD 1993 FLOOD
Human Loss
of Life
246 47
Displaced People 700,000 74,000
Financial Loss $347,000,000 in 1927
= $4.4 billion in 1993 dollars
Structural Damage 137,000 buildings
destroyed or damaged
47,650 buildings
destroyed or damaged
Flooded Area 27,000 square miles 15,600 square miles
River Volume 2,500,000 cubic feet
of water per second
1,000,000 cubic feet
of water per second (USGS)

Data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers except where noted.

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