Mississippi River reaches major flood levels

By Shane McAdams

In the summer of 1993 heavy spring and summer precipitation in the Mississippi River basin created the biggest flood the Midwest has ever seen. For many who were alive at the time, it is simply the Great Flood of 1993.

The flood of 1993 was touted as a once in 500 years occurrence. However, only 26 years later water levels are inching closer to the record set in 1993.

In July of 1993 water levels of the Mississippi River in Quincy, Illinois reached 31.3 feet. The amount of water was simply too much for the levees in West Quincy to handle. After the levee was tampered with by a Quincy resident the levee failed, flooding thousands of acres.

While the flood of 1993 still remains the largest flood in Quincy history books, the flood of 2019 is close behind. Due tp late spring snows and heavy rainfalls in the Mississippi River basin the river level has once again entered the major flooding stages.

The flood stage of the river in Quincy is 17 feet of water. However, in order to classify as major flood stages the water level has to reach or surpass 25 feet. On May 3 at the Quincy Lock and Dam the water reached a height of almost 28 feet (27.75 feet). Just a few feet short of the record flood levels of 1993.

While the flood waters didn’t reach the height they did during the great flood, local businesses, properties, and parks in Quincy were still suffering the effects of rising water.

The Barn is a club and bar that is popular with many QU students and locals. Tim Wiemelt is the general manger at the barn.

“This is the highest the water has been in quite a while…As of right now we aren’t really planning on doing sandbags or anything, we think the water might come up like another foot but I think we will be all right… It really just effects us because we can’t open right now because the roads are closed,” Wiemelt said.

The River level approaches the freight door of The Barn.

The flood waters stopped just shy of The Barn but just down the road local bar called The Dock was under several feet of water.

The Dock under several feet of water.

Other businesses along the Quincy river front were seen using pumps and sandbags to contain and clear water.

Local businesses along the river front using sandbags and water pumps to clear water.

While local businesses try to keep their buildings high and dry, some other city properties are already underwater. The Quincy Park District has several parks and recreation areas along the river. Many of these parks are either underwater or very close. Quinsippi Island Park is almost entirely submerged, with several of its key features being threatened by the flood water.

One of the most crucial pieces of Quinsippi park is the narrow one lane bridge that connects the park to the mainland. The water levels rose so high that they were touching the bottom of the bridge.

The water level reaching and touching the bottom of the Quinsippi bridge.

Not only had the water level risen high enough to touch the bottom of the bridge but it had swept many things downstream with it. One of the biggest things to be washed down river was a duck hunting blind. The blind floated down river and became lodged against the Quinsippi Bridge.

The duck blind that had been lodged against the Quinsippi bridge.

Among the other problems is the amount of trash that has floated down stream and collected on the island, as well as the island’s historic log cabins that are also under water.

Trash collecting in still flood waters of Quinsippi Park.
The historical log cabins of Quinsippi Island under water.

Jim Young is a park ranger with the Quincy Park Service.

“Most of the houses and properties on the river if they aren’t elevated on those stilt platforms are under water. In the marina area over here (in Quinsippi) all these boat docks are attached to big poles. If the water level gets high the current can come in there and week all kinds of havoc on the docks. As far as the log cabins go, there’s a club that maintains them, so that not our job but they are under a bit of water,” Young said.

For more information on Mississippi River water levels in and around the tri-state area see the National Weather Service Hydrological Service website.

News Reporter

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