Update As of this afternoon, June 17, the predictions now place the crest of the flood in St. Louis on the 23rd of June, and 40 feet. The forecast is now for major flooding in our community.
Tomorrow or Thursday, I’ll grab my camera, as I head out to record yet another flood. It seems like I’m taking pictures of flooding every six months now.
A year ago the Missouri crept over its banks, sending the Mississippi higher, but not to the point of being a threat. Earlier this year, I watched as the Meramec flooded areas not two miles from my home. And now, favorite towns of mine further north—Clarksville, Winfield, Hannibal, Alton— are facing their worst threat, perhaps ever.
The main Clarksville city web site says it all, replacing the normal pages with just one picture of the downtown area, showing the river as it gets closer. First there was Wisconsin, then Iowa, now us and Illinois, as too much water drains off the land into the only place it can drain: the Mississippi.
The crest will most likely arrive on Friday for the towns up north, on Saturday for St. Louis. We’re not going to reach the same 1993 flood levels, as the Missouri isn’t as high as it was 15 years ago. It was high waters further north along the Mississippi and high waters in the Missouri, both of which converge just before the city that lead to such epic floods in St.Louis and down south. Still, we’re a scant four inches away from crossing the line from moderate to major flooding, as levees overtop up north, like dominoes falling, one after another; leaving behind a body of water that seems as surprised to see buildings in its midst as we are devastated to see it surround our homes and flow over our streets.
The folks of Hannibal assure us that Mark Twain’s home is in no danger because of a levee built years ago. The same levee featured in the first story in Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America , which told of how the levee protected the business area and museums, but didn’t the homes of the poor, and how it is the poor who suffer the most in these floods. Mark Twain would not approve.
We knew this flood was coming months ago, as rains fell throughout the spring, and snow fell into up north and melted late. What can you do, though? Levees can’t be built in a month, and sandbags can only do so much. The water is the blood that flows through the veins of our land, and not only couldn’t we hold it back, we shouldn’t hold it back. All we can do is cherish the river in good times, and run for the hills in bad. Oh, and not build homes in flood plains.
I watched on TV last night as forecasters predicted that these floods will cause food prices to inflate an additional 6%. The waters have filled fields with muck and goo, unlike floods in the past that used to lay down clean, rich, top soil. We’ve contaminated the lands and the waters and the floods don’t bring the benefits the way they used to. Now, you have to have a tetanus shot just to go near the water.
The Army Corps of Engineers, who believe that we can engineer ourselves out of any problem, call these floods five hundred year floods because there is a .2% chance of them happening every year. I don’t think the experts really know how often these floods will come, though, because earlier this year the National Weather Service’s expert on floods in this area predicted only moderate flooding for 2008, even as we looked out the window at the rains, and one week before the Meramec floods began.