Back in 1993 when the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers flooded it was called a 500 year flood. Fifteen years later the Mississippi River is breaking the records set in 1993, and it is called a 500 year flood. Now, I am no math major, but when did 15 years become equal with 500? Obviously something is amiss in the calculations or descriptions of what constitutes a true 500 year flood.
To begin with, who is around that could honestly document what the Mississippi River did in 1493 or 1508? Columbus did not “discover” America until 1492. Did he send scouts to the Mississippi River to document the great flood going on then? My point is that no one knows when the last time the river flooded the way it did fifteen years ago or now, for there were no people keeping records until the early 1800’s.
Logic dictates that “back in the day” before man in his great wisdom started building towns along river banks and then started erecting levees to protect those towns, when it rained a lot the river simply expanded into the flood plain. Every river has a plain where it spreads out during times of floods. The only good thing about flood plains is that the ground is extremely fertile and grows excellent crops. Flood plains were never intended to be turned into sub-divisions and shopping malls.
Many years ago, farmers who reaped the benefits of the fertile flood plains during non flood years decided to put up levees to give them more years to grow crops. Every now and then, the river would still flood and break the levees and flood the farmland. Either farmers lived with the risk and made do or put up higher levees. Soon they found that they could withstand all but the mightiest of floods.
Cities also decided to quit dealing with floods and put up cement levees and flood walls to protect themselves from major flooding. River commerce got in the act and put up locks and dams to allow barges to make it up and down the river whether it was high or low. What was once a great river with plenty of room to spread out to during floods has been turned into a tunnel with amazing flow strength during times of floods.
I live near the St. Louis, Missouri area where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers meet. On either side of both rivers are bluffs. Over the centuries the rivers have carved out channels where the vast majority of time the rivers stay. Usually the bluffs on one side of the river are very steep and go straight down to the river, but on the other side there is a vast flat area which is the flood plain.
One such place is what is known locally as the Chesterfield Valley which is adjacent to the Missouri River in Chesterfield. Many years ago a levee was put up to protect the valley and business activity boomed. In 1993 the levee broke and the entire valley was covered with 8 feet of water. Logic would dictate allowing the river to win and taking down the levees. Greed does not operate using logic.
The levees were strengthened and made much higher after the 1993 flood. Assurances have been given that no flood could ever break these levees. In the fifteen years since the last break, the valley has seen an explosion of business activity. There are now scores of huge shopping centers, restaurants, high end facilities of every type and many car dealerships. The amount of money poured into the Chesterfield Valley since 1993 is staggering.
Just downstream from the Chesterfield valley is an area known as “Earth City”. Again, this area was part of the flood plain years ago but a huge earthen levee was put up (which survived the 1993 flood) and the flood plain was transformed into a mega complex of warehouses, shipping depots and even the practice facility for the St. Louis Rams. Every UPS package for the entire St. Louis area goes to the facility located in Earth City.
Earth City has grown and expanded and recently a huge Outlet Mall was built in the flood plain along with scores of other retail stores. Billions of dollars of new construction has taken place since the great flood of 1993. Fears of flooding are nonexistent due to promises made by those responsible for the levees that no flood could ever break or top them.
There are places to build and there are places not to build. Why choose to build on flood plains? Why not move a little further inland and build there? Why disrupt nature to accommodate greed?
The city of New Orleans proved conclusively what can happen when levees fail back in 2005. Although I have mourned for the loss of life and what the floods did to disrupt lives and livelihood; I have no pity for a city which defies nature and builds itself BELOW SEA LEVEL. Any city dependent solely upon old weak levees and pumps to survive will surely fail.
One of these days the mighty Missouri River will decide to show Chesterfield and Earth City who is still the boss. One of these days the Missouri River will decide to have a 1,000 year flood a few years after a 500 year one. One of these days the impact of man erecting levees, dams and other means to “contain” the river will result in a flood with enough flow strength to crush man’s strongest earthen levees. One of these days, the mega business centers built foolishly in flood plains will become nothing but a few taller buildings sticking out of a sea of water.
Man is 100% responsible for the damage being done by the current flooding. Foolish building policies and even more foolish attempts to reign in rivers have resulted in 500 year floods coming every 15 years. As bad as it is out here in the Midwest, the problem is even worse in the Northeast. Due to construction of dams, the major rivers such as the Delaware are bound to experience flooding soon every bit as bad as the current flooding on the Mississippi.
The foolishness and greed of man is ultimately no match for the power of nature. Whether torrential rains a hurricane or melting snow and ice; sooner or later rivers do as they were put on this earth to do—provide a means to get rid of excess water. Unfortunately man has hopelessly screwed up the way nature intended to do this so now man pays the price each time nature has to get rid of his foolishness to do its job.