Iowa June 22, 2019
The Devastating Natural Disaster That Changed Iowa Forever
Do you remember the spring, summer, and fall of 1993? If you lived in Iowa, it’s a year that’s hard to forget. The Great Flood of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers caused record high water levels throughout the Midwest for much of the year and the Hawkeye State was forever changed.
The Great Flood of 1993 was one of the deadliest and costliest disasters in Iowa history, and those who lived through it will never forget the year the water kept rising.
From April to October, floodwaters devastated Iowa and its neighbor states. Throughout the Midwest, more than 30,000 square miles were flooded. When you take into consideration the duration, area, displaced persons, crop damage, and property damage, the Great Flood of 1993 was comparable to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
Homes and businesses were under water, and many areas were flooded for more than 100 days.
In several towns, the water receded and returned more than five times before the disaster was finally over.
Infrastructure throughout the Midwest was decimated, and roads were washed out from the rushing water.
There was more than $15 billion in damages to crops, property, roadways, bridges, and transportation lines. At least 100,000 homes throughout the region were destroyed, and 15 million acres of farmland rinsed away. Though Iowa was surely hit hard, we did luck out in one way — we were able to keep our towns. Our neighbors were not so lucky, and the entire towns of Valmeyer, Illinois, and Rhineland, Missouri had to be removed and built along higher ground.
Almost all of Iowa was affected, even far from the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
Here, you can see part of the Bentonsport Historic District under water. The beautiful Villages of Van Buren County were heavily damaged. Rest assured, they are rebuilt and restored, so you can still enjoy their historic splendor.
The Coralville Dam breached its spillway for the first time in history. The dam was built in the 1940s, so this was quite a record-breaking flood.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the flood occurred right here. When water crested over the 712-foot emergency spillway, it washed away tons of sediment and uncovered the Devonian Fossil Gorge.
Despite the lessons learned from the 1993 flood, the Coralville Dam breached once again on June 12, 2008, topping the 1993 record by an extra 5 feet.
Davenport was particularly hit hard, and the Quad Cities, in general, suffered massive loss of property and a historic reshaping of the landscape.
The flood was the worst disaster in Quad Cities history, and it's one the region will never forget.
Today, the legacy of the Great Flood of 1993 can be felt throughout Iowa.
High water markers, like this sign near the Mehaffey Bridge on the Iowa River, mark the record highs as rivers and streams reached unthinkable levels. Sadly, several local records were surpassed during the 2008 summer floods.
For more information about the devastating floods a decade ago, read
One Of The Worst Disasters In U.S. History Happened Right Here In Iowa.