50 Years Ago, the Tragic Mississippi River Flood Took 28 Lives
It was the third most severe flood of the Mississippi River in the 20th century. The waters rose, levees failed and the end result was 28 lives were lost and thousands were displaced by the 'Great Flood of 73' that created havoc in Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
The history of the 'Great Flood of 73' is vast including an abbreviated version on Wikipedia but there are other accounts that recall just how bad the flooding was and what caused it that Spring.
What caused the Great Flood of 73?
The USGS notes that the winter of 1972/1973 saw large amounts of snowfall in many regions which led to big snowmelt starting in March of 1973. Then, the rains came. In some cases torrential rain which included a staggering 7 inches in just 6 hours as recorded by a KWIX in Moberly, Missouri in early March of 1973. This map shows the relative amount of precipitation in February of 1973 compared to a normal year.
That led to rising river stages that overwhelmed the levees on the Mississippi.
Jon Coomer shared an 8mm film from his family's home movies that showed the beginning of the flooding in March of 1973.
One of the worst levee failures was just south of St. Louis leading to 9,400 acres of land being inundated with flood water.
By the time the waters began to recede in May and early June of 1973, over $250 million in damage had been done and at least 28 lives had been lost due to the flooding.
I was 7 years old when the Mississippi River flooded downtown Hannibal. My mom worked at a savings and loan downtown and her office was underwater. It took weeks before anyone could travel in that part of downtown Hannibal. Will never forget it as long as I live.
20 years later, an even greater flood would bring catastrophe to towns along the Mississippi, but the 'Great Flood of 73' was the worst flood at that time since 1927. It still stands as the 3rd worst Mississippi River flooding event of the 20th century.