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Mississippi River Flood Stage Breaks Record, Surpasses Length Of Historic 1993 Flood

Lindsey Grojean/KRCU

Current Mississippi River levels have exceeded the number of consecutive days above flood stage as they had during the Great Flood of 1993. Although the record for duration was broken at 126 days on July 16, the river crested lower in Cape Girardeau this time than it had 26 years ago.

Meteorologist Sean Poulos with the National Weather Service estimates the ‘93 flood to have reached 48.5 feet, while the river crested at 46 feet last month. 

A combination of factors have led to this, says Poulos: “dating back through the winter” there was above average snow pack with substantial melting occurring through the north. There has also been above-average rainfall in Missouri over the past six months.

“They’ve all just kind of culminated into the rivers staying elevated for a very long time,” says Poulos. 

With drier conditions coming in, Paulos says we are on a downhill slide away from higher flood levels. 

“[There’s] probably a pretty good chance of it falling below [flood stages] within the next month, unless we get inundated with a lot more rainfall,” he says.

United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) hydraulics and hydrology branch chief, Michael Clay says records have been beat at other gauges this year, such as at Cairo’s 1973 record of 97 consecutive days.

“In 2019, we have endured over 150 consecutive days above flood stage. This was truly a historic flood,” Clay says.

“This year has been particularly record breaking on several counts,” says USACE water control chief, Sarah Girdner. 

Her division collects data on the hydrological conditions and feeds it out to other branches and the National Weather Service. They determine when floodfights occur, and after looking at data from December to May - and conditions in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois - she says it has led to significant findings amid the longest floodfight in Cairo. 

“We have had the wettest year on record out of 124 years of recorded data,” says Girdner.

Within the Memphis District, she says they have not encountered too many problems during this long flood length, and the river is starting to bottom out. 

The National Weather Service says during the ‘93 flood, water levels lasted at some locations for nearly 200 days, and covered 400,000 square miles out of nine states. 

There was a total cost of $15 billion in damages in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Currently, the state of Missouri is seeking aid to help with disaster relief in certain counties who had formerly been left out in previous state of emergency efforts.