How Does The Mississippi River Flood of 2019 Compare to Past Floods on the Mississippi


May 3, 2019
Nashville, TN
Hello all!

The Flood of 2019 has basically devastated much of southwest Illinois, especially in Alexander county, IL, and I have been keeping up with the flooding basically since February. I was wondering on everyone’s thoughts about how this flood will stand in comparison to the other historic floods on the Mississippi.
I am not familiar with the flooding in SW IL this year. The Mississippi floods somewhere basically every year. The question is which particular location gets the worst, and the magnitude of the anomaly of flooding. I cannot answer your question.
An April 2018 article in Nature says that the recent flooding has been worse than any time in the last 500 years: Mississippi River flooding worse now than any time in past 500 years. It seems to be referring to this study: Climatic control of Mississippi River flood hazard amplified by river engineering. The study is behind a pay wall (you might check your local library for free access).

Some other links on Mississippi River flooding:

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This year's flood came very close to the 1993 record in the St. Louis region. Many of the same impacts were present, including the number of floodgates closed, sandbag-raised levees and pumping operations.

This was the crest at Alton on June 5th. The red line on the grain elevator is the 1993 record water line:


Downtown, the scene was nearly identical to 1993. I made this GIF comparing the July 6 crest with normal river levels:

I shot this giga-pan image of the river downtown during the crest:

Panorama: 2019 Mississippi River flood crest in downtown St. Louis
Davenport, Iowa (Quad Cities area) recorded their highest crest in history on May 2 2019 as confirmed by the Army Corp of Engineers beating out 1993. So up here it was quite a big deal with major flooding occurring over the span of March-June on most river gauges.
One thing about this flood is that, in many places, it has been of much longer duration than past floods. Although the Quad Cities is the only place I know of that set a record high crest, many places have set records for continuous time above flood stage.