Experts say flood bad, but comparison to 1993 premature

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Even with rivers pouring over their banks and more heavy rain in the forecast, comparisons to 1993 are premature, experts say.

The Great Flood of 1993 bowled over levees, ripped away homes and businesses and set new high water marks at many points along the Mississippi, Missouri and other rivers. The aftermath included newer, bigger levees and federal buyouts of properties in flood-prone areas.

The big rivers and their tributaries are expected to crest well above flood stage in parts of Missouri this week -- but nowhere near 1993 or even 1995 levels.

"In many cases what we have now is typical spring flooding," National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kramper said. "It's not really way out of whack."

Still, some of the scenes are sadly familiar: the Missouri entrance to the Clark Bridge north of St. Louis impassable and shut down due to high water; dramatic rescues by boat and helicopter; worried homeowners packing up belongings, hoping and praying for dry weather.

Flooding in Missouri has been blamed for eight deaths this month, including three over the weekend. Most of the deaths were the result of flash floods along normally docile smaller rivers and creeks.

Gov. Bob Holden asked federal officials on Tuesday to begin taking surveys of flood damage to determine if any of the state's counties are eligible for agricultural disaster aid.

"Much of the state's corn crop is either under water or in danger of becoming flooded, and the wet weather has delayed soybean planting throughout the state," Holden said. "These damage assessment reports will help us know exactly where we stand in terms of crop loss and whether some Missouri farmers could be eligible for federal aid."

Tuesday was the middle of what was forecast to be a three-day dry spell, but Kramper said potentially heavy rain was expected Thursday and Friday.

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