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lesson 15-2 - The Great Flood of 1993 on the Upper...

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1 Background Ten years ago, the upper Missis- sippi River Basin in the Midwest- ern United States experienced the costliest flood in the history of the United States. The flood came to be known as “ The Great Flood of 1993”. The Mississippi River drains approximately 40 percent of the continental United States (approxi- mately 1.25 million square miles) --all or part of 31 States, and two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Manitoba (fig. 1). During the sum- mer of 1993, extremely high rain- fall fell on the upper Midwest. An abnormally persistent atmospheric weather pattern consisting of an almost stationary jet stream was positioned over the central part of the Nation during this time. Moist, unstable air flowing north from the Gulf of Mexico converged with unseasonably cool, dry air moving south from Canada. The magnitude and severity of the resulting flood event was overwhelming. The areal extent, intensity, and long duration of the flooding makes this one of the greatest natural disasters ever in the United States. At least 48 people lost their lives as a result of this extreme flood (Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force, 1994). Over 500 river fore- cast points in the Midwest were above flood stage at the same time. Nearly 150 major rivers and tribu- taries flooded. Banks and chan- nels of many rivers were severely eroded, and sediment was depos- ited over large areas of the Missis- sippi River flood plain. Economic damages approached $20 billion (National Oceanic and Atmo- spheric Administration, 1994). Le- The Great Flood of 1993 on the Upper Mississippi River—10 Years Later By Gary P. Johnson, Robert R. Holmes, Jr., and Loyd A. Waite “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise...” - Mark Twain in Eruption Figure 1. Upper Mississippi River Basin in the United States. The Arch in St. Louis, Missouri: taken close to the peak of the Great Flood of 1993 on the upper Mississippi River.
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2 vees were broken, farmland, town, and transportation routes were destroyed, and more than 50,000 homes were damaged or destroyed (Josephson, 1994). Water-quality threats to public health and safety were of paramount concern. These threats included contamination of drinking-water supplies, disrup- tion of wastewater-treatment plant operations, failure of septic sys- tems, and risks associated with the inundation of facilities that handle hazardous materials.
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