The Great Flood of 1993

Great Flood of 1993 – Mississippi River and Missouri River

The Great Flood of 1993 was a tragic and detrimental few months for many states along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  From April to October, the rivers flooded a total area of around 30,000 square miles while affecting nearly 320,000 square miles.  The Great Flood of 1993 was the worst flood experienced in the United States since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.


Starting in 1992, above-average rainfall and lower than average temperatures heighten worry that a flood could be on its way.  During the winter of 1992-1993, heavy snowfall was experienced.  As spring rolled along, storms became more and more frequent leading up to the flood in April.  Due to the constant wet soil starting in the fall of 1992, water was not retained into the soil and began to overflow in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and smaller bodies of water in the area.


From April to August, locations in the central-northern plains saw precipitation rates at 400-750% above average, while in Iowa, 48 inches of total rainfall was recorded.  As a result, some places along the Mississippi River saw flooding for upwards of 200 days, while those located along the Missouri River saw flooding for upwards of 100 days.

While precautions were set in place in towns and cities along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, particularly levees, they were unable to hold the amount of rainfall.  Throughout the five-month flood, water surpassed or damaged 40 federal levees and 1,043 non-federal ones.  As the rivers are a main source of transportation, barge traffic was completely halted for two months, and bridges were not accessible or in use.  A total of ten airports were flooded, and transportation via train was suspended for two months as well during the worst part of the flood.  Many sewage treatment plants were also destroyed between April and August.

At times, the flood seemed to be receding, particularly along the Mississippi River.  In June, water levels even reached four feet below flood stage.  July, however, brought increased precipitation, and flooding began again.

In total, approximately 100,000 homes and 15 million acres of farmland were destroyed, and those living in the towns of Valmeyer, Illinois, and Rhineland, Missouri, had to relocate and evacuate to places of higher elevation. In addition, an estimated 50 people were killed by the flood, and somewhere between $15-$20 billion in damages were incurred.


In October, 103 days after the start of the Great Flood of 1993, the Mississippi River finally dropped below the flood stage. So the flood was officially over.

After the flood, farmlands, houses, and other areas were covered in displaced sand and debris.  Of all the impacted areas, Kansas City survived the Great Flood of 1993, the best having had an improved levee system after a flood in 1951.

Since 1993, floods have continued to affect the Missouri and Mississippi River valleys, though none have been as detrimental as the Great Flood of 1993.  Though the flood was a tragic time for the area and took many years to be built back up and recuperate, not many advances have been made to assist in case of similar floods in the future.