Where I live, flooding is a rare thing. When it does occur, it is generally on a small scale, doing minimal damage. Aside from watching flooding video on TV, I have little real comprehension of the wide scale power of a major flood and the damage a raging river can cause.
Last week, on my visit to St. Louis, I was able to get a first hand look at the immensity and raw force of the surging waters. These shots were taken on Thursday, June 19, about 11 hours prior to the floodwaters cresting; the site was the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park (the St. Louis Gateway Arch).
Although the photos aptly show the height of the river and the extent to which it was encroaching the shore, it fails to capture the speed at which the water was flowing. This was made evident by the rapid rate that trees and other debris moved down the river. Given the ominous pace of the flooded Mississippi, it is easy to see how destructive it would be to anything in its path.
According to experts, much of the flooding and damage could have been avoided. Each effort that is made to stop the river from overflowing its banks in one area renders it that much more likely to flood elsewhere—usually downstream. So, if the river were allowed to naturally overflow into its flood plain without human intervention, excess water could be removed from the river at many points along the way, minimizing downstream disaster. As it is, attempts to stop flooding only serve to keep all the water contained, flowing towards the ocean. Eventually, the amount of water continues to expand until it breaches levees and overflows its banks. When it does the volume of water and the force behind it do great damage.
As such, I am certainly glad that I don’t live anywhere near a flood plain.