Mississippi River: Great Flood of 2019

City of Davenport, Iowa covered in flood waters.   Photo: Brian Powers, The Des Moines Register via AP

Flooding on the Mississippi River has now exceeded the “historic” 1993 flood, as Accuweather reported that the river officially crested at 22.70 feet at Rock Island, Illinois on Thursday night, which broke the previous record of 22.63 feet that was set on July 9, 1993, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) at the Quad Cities Office We reported last week that a flood barrier had broken and sent a wall of water into Davenport’s downtown damaging businesses and vehicles — Davenport has no permanent levee or floodwall — and the flooding has remained in place even as the river starts to recede.

Sadly, people ignore some of the warning signs of the severity of flooding. According to the Associated Press, a 2-year-old boy was killed on Thursday in Indiana when his mother drove past a “high water” sign and on to a flooded road and her vehicle submerged completely. The mother escaped out of the car, but was unable to rescue the child who died when the vehicle was swept away.  According to Time Magazine:

  • So far this year, 15.1 inches of rain fell in Davenport, Iowa;
  • High water on the Mississippi has persisted for months, slowing shipments of grain, fuel, and chemicals; and
  • CME Group Inc., owner of the Chicago Board of Trade, declared “force majeure” to get out of contractual buy/sell requirements due to impossibility at a majority of corn and soybean regular shipping stations on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.

The Mississippi River has been at major flood stage for 41 days, according to National Public Radio, and communities downriver are bracing for the high waters to arrive placing farming communities along the Mississippi are at risk.

Why This Matters:  The major flood relief package has not made it through Congress yet, so there is time to add funding to relieve those impacted by the Mississippi River in addition to the Missouri River flooding from last month.  But the increasingly common pattern of spending billions on disasters after the fact is starting to change the public’s attitude toward climate change.  And is making it harder for even red state residents to deny that climate change is here and now, not some future threat.  It may also explain why climate change has become a top tier issue for the Iowa Caucuses.  The flooding will also certainly come up when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds an oversight hearing later this week for the Corps of Engineers, which “manages” the operation of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  When I (Monica) was Counsel on that Committee’s staff in 1993 (yes – that long ago), I helped to draft legislation to reform Corps of Engineers flood control program following the “great” flood of 1993.  We were working to get “green” infrastructure projects even then, as we recognized that 500-year floods were happening much more frequently than that.

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