Week by Week: Highlighting the Flood of '93

Sunday, July 14, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:06 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Amid the floodwater from the Mississippi River, sandbag calligraphy tops Martin L. Sontheimer's home July 13, 1993, on Iffrig Road in Missouri's St. Charles County.

This summer, the Missourian plans to run a weekly timeline of events that were unfolding 20 years ago along with occasional stories about the people and places that weathered the flood. Here's a recap of events that unfolded in early July along with this week's timeline:

The Great Flood of 1993 began in earnest in early July. With low-lying areas in the Missouri River bottoms near Jefferson City already threatened by the surging river, more than 7 inches of rain fell the night of July 6, pushing rainfall totals for the year above 50 inches.

On July 7, the National Weather Service forecast the river would crest at 34 feet in Boonville by the end of the week —  1.2 feet higher than the record flood of 1951. That same day, some residents of Hartsburg in southern Boone County began to evacuate their homes and move belongings to higher ground.

Flooding wasn't limited to river communities. Flooding from heavy rain forced residents to evacuate from Sunset and Columbia Regency mobile home parks in Columbia.

On July 8, several levees failed along the Missouri River at Glasgow in Howard County, flooding more than 2,000 acres of farmland and submerging a four-mile stretch of Highway 240.

The State Emergency Management Agency estimated on July 9 that about 11,000 people in 22 counties and St. Louis had been evacuated because of flooding on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

Additional Missouri National Guard troops were called out to help with sandbagging and security, and new forecasts called for a crest of 38 feet at Boonville — well above the 30-foot level of protection afforded by the highest river levees.

On July 9, floodwaters claimed the life of Adrian Glen Leaton, 36, of Columbia who drowned while trying to reach his stranded parents in the floodwaters surrounding McBaine.

Residents of Franklin across the river from Boonville were advised to evacuate when it seemed certain the river would overrun the last remaining levee there, and emergency management officials called for volunteers to relieve weary residents with sandbagging in Hartsburg, McBaine and other river towns.

Overton resident Maribeth Long looks out at the flooded Missouri River in this Missourian file photo. The river flooded the family farmland and crept to within a few feet of the house July 9, 1993.

Despite the efforts of volunteers, the river spilled through two levees near Hartsburg on July 12, putting more than 3,000 acres of farmland under water.

The Missouri River rose to its highest crest of 37.1 feet on July 30, but that wasn't the end of Missouri's flood troubles.

Although the river at Boonville began to recede in August, there was an extensive amount of damage left to clean-up and repair. Roads such as Highway 54 and Highway 63 eventually reopened, but only after inches of mud and blocks of concrete were cleared from the lanes. Some residents of river bottom towns were also scraping inches of mud out of their homes, while others chose to abandon their flood-ruined homes completely and relocate to higher ground. 

For most citizens of Boone County, the headache of the flood ended with the last of the receding floodwaters in early September. Yet, the legacy of the Great Flood of '93 will live on as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Missouri.

July 13

  • By 9 a.m., fields around Hartsburg looked like a lake. In town, more than 2 feet of water flooded Bush Landing Road and part of Second Street.
  • The Missouri River crested in Boonville at 33.6 feet, but more heavy rain overnight meant a new crest would probably begin flowing downstream.
  • The American Red Cross and local emergency management officials called for more volunteers to sandbag in Boone County river towns, especially along Highway 240 into Rocheport.
  • Rising water forced Boone Electric Cooperative to cut power to homes still occupied in McBaine.

Hardin is shown under water July 13, 1993, after levees on the Missouri and Crooked Rivers gave way and flooded the small farming community in this Associated Press file photo.

July 14

  • U.S. 63 north of Jefferson City was closed in the morning by rapidly rising water from the Missouri River.
  • At 9:30 a.m., northbound U.S. 63 was closed near Jefferson City when water reached a depth of 4 inches; an hour later the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported the water was a foot deep.
  • Rail traffic between Kansas City and St. Louis was suspended because the Union Pacific line near the Missouri River was under 5 inches of water near Hermann.

July 16

  • Floodwaters began to recede, and residents along river towns began cleaning up.
  • FEMA set up a disaster center in Columbia to begin handing out aid to those affected by the flood.
  • The Missouri River burst through a levee and joined with the Mississippi River near St. Louis, 20 miles north of where the two rivers normally converge.
  • Due to flooding, the Hartsburg post office was relocated to Ashland.
  • Eight to 10 inches of floodwater covered northbound U.S. 63. Sandbagging efforts lasted late into the previous night to keep U.S. 54,  the only other road into Jefferson City on the east side of the river, open.

July 19

  • U.S. 63 north of Jefferson City was reopened as floodwaters continued to recede.
  • Upriver at Glasgow, floodwaters ripped a 1,000-foot hole in the Gateway Western Railroad.

Mark Richardson, right, and Ron Buchanan play pool while standing in flood water inside Red's Again Tavern on July 19, 1993, in Portage des Sioux, in this Missourian file photo. The tavern had been closed all week because of flooding from the Mississippi River, but the owner allowed residents in to pick up food and beer.

Sources: The Columbia Missourian, The Associated Press and the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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