City after city was soaked by the Mississippi's deep waters

Sunday, June 1, 2003

The Great Flood of 1993 in Southeast Missouri began as just another flirtation with the flood stage in early April.

It became a disaster caused by a river that wouldn't go away until fall.

Levees soaked with water for months began to fail. Traffic couldn't move on the Mississippi River from early July until the flood began subsiding late in August.

The world media noticed the flood, and volunteers from all over the United States descended on Ste. Genevieve to help save the historic town's architectural treasures. Some were lost, but Ste. Genevieve now is protected by a new federal levee.

Further south near Perryville, a 300-wide breach at Bois Brule levee in late July forced the evacuation of the community of McBride, eight miles away. Two Perryville manufacturers, Sabreliner and Gilster-Mary Lee, were inundated. An estimated 27,000 acres of farmland were under water.

In Southern Illinois, a 100-foot-wide gap opened in a levee near Miller City in mid-July, flooding Miller City and the Horseshoe Lake area.

Cape Girardeau, Commerce and Dutchtown took the brunt of the flood locally.

The river crested for the final time at a record 48 feet in Cape Girardeau on Aug. 8 at 4 p.m. In the Red Star district in the northern part of the city and Meadowbrook and Kingshighway in the southern part, families and neighbors pumped water and filled sandbags around the clock to save their houses. Some succeeded, some failed.

Two years later the federal government bought more than 100 pieces of flood-prone property in Cape Girardeau to enable people to move out.

In Commerce, where nearly all the houses were in the floodplain, the flood's devastation eventually led to demands for a controversial federal buyout of flood-prone property.

At Dutchtown, an estimated 500,000 sandbags were filled to build a half-mile levee atop Highway 74 to protect the tiny community. Highway 25 from Gordonville to Dutchtown was closed that summer.

More than 21,000 acres of farmland spent most of the summer under water in Cape Girardeau County.

When the time finally came to collect sandbags in September, Cape Girardeau County estimated that 1 million were used to try to contain the Great Flood of 1993.

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