THE GREAT FLOOD
N O PROPHECIES were uttered when it all began, when the wind blew and the rain descended on the plains. No dire predictions augured the disaster; no omens hinted at a catastrophe of epic proportions. But for months the sky fell, bit by bit and drop by drop, and the waters gathered on the face of the earth to flow into the river; and then the river rose up and rolled onward like an ocean on the march, capturing farmland and township, bridge and barge.
And when it was over, when the river finally retreated from its conquered territory, the great flood on the Missouri and upper Mississippi basins had moved beyond mere awe and tragedy to the realm of mysticism, to top almost every means of measure, verbal and mathematical.
None of us is ever going to forget how the rains came in the summer for the first time, out of nowhere. And we will never feel the same about our place on earth. VICTOR LESPINASSE, Illinois
In the “500-year flood,” as much as 10 times the normal rainfall was flung over eight states for the better part of two months, killing 50 people, immersing 13.5 million acres of land, bursting federal levees in 12 places and private levees in nearly 800 spots, and causing an estimated $12 billion in damage.
The flood did not discriminate. Among its detritus were picnic tables and auto-mobiles, tree stumps and deer. Its waters flowed over the enduring emblems of America’s heartland: the barnyards and barbecues, the fields and fence posts. The barges that usually command the waterway were rendered helpless and inert, teth- ered to a vanished shore. Crops were submerged under inches, even feet, of water. Said a dairy farmer in Wisconsin: “We deal with Mother Nature all the time, but this is hurting us more than people can take.” It began with the rains. The precip-itation in St. Louis in the first six months of the year was more than twice the amount in the same period in 1992; those months were the wettest in Iowa in 121 years of record-keeping. On July 13 an inch fell in only six minutes at Papillion, Nebraska. The floods followed. On the night of July 15 in Fargo, North Dakota, the Red River, engorged by a daylong deluge, rose 4 feet in six hours, rampaging into town and causing sewage to back up into homes and Dakota Hospital. On July 16 the Missouri River poured over the top of a railroad embankment being used as a levee in St. Charles County, Missouri, northwest of St. Louis. Its waters mingled with those swirling south from the Mississippi 20 miles upriver from the two rivers’ normal junction, forcing: several hundred people to join the 7,000 who had already evacuated their homes. That evening the Mississippi broke through a sand levee at West Quincy.Missouri, forcing the closing of the Bayview Bridge, the last span that was open over a 200-mile stretch of the river where it separates Missouri and Illinois.
Much of the drowned land is normally among the most fertile acreage on earth. Prospective crop losses were spectacular: $1.5 billion worth of soybeans in Illinois, $1 billion worth of corn in Iowa. Farmers took it hard. For all the urban pretensions in bigger towns like St. Joseph and Des Moines, the river region was geared to nature’s rhythms, a verdant land of quilted green and slow streams with such names as Skunk and Nodaway. The Flood of ‘93 stole some of its innocence and trust. Bob Plathe, who farms 800 acres of soybean and corn in Lu Verne, Iowa, echoed the region’s lament.
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© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993