Water backed up from the Mississippi combined with local drainage to force
the River Des Peres to record levels in the summer of 1993. Residents were driven
from their homes, some with water at their feet, some losing their home permanently.
Looking east on the River Des Peres along Germania Ave. from the Interstate 55 bridge. Notice the dump truck dwarfed by the water level above it on the levee. This photo was taken a week before the ultimate crest on August 1. The river would rise another 2 1/2 feet higher than the top of the pictured sandbags. That week, in the distance on the left, a 15' breach in the levee flooded a neighborhood around Alabama Ave. The hole was filled by city workers. On the south side of the river from that breach, residents were forced out after losing a valiant battle to save the homes in the Kaiser Creek area. They would never be able to return. The area was bought out and a county park has been developed there.
Thousands of people working together added another 3-4 foot layer of sandbags on top of the levee and strengthened the side with loads of rock and more sandbags for the stretches of the river that had not yet topped the levee.
Looking south from Germania Ave. across the River Des Peres to the submerged Carondelet Blvd, just west of I-55. Sandbags were not utilized along this area of Carondelet because of the low initial height of the levee. During the next week, almost 3 more feet of water would endanger these homes.The homes on the north side, where this picture was taken, were saved. Residents returned to the homes pictured to find the interiors blackened by mold and mud after weeks of flooding.
August 1, 1993 brought the crest of 49.58' which is 6.35' higher than the record 1973 flood. Work crews were feverishly building up the levee to surveyed markers at the 51' level. Only a break in the Mississippi levee at Columbia Bottoms in Illinois would stem the rapidly rising water. Video of the rushing water carrying Virgil Gummersheimer's farmhouse away at that break is unforgettable.
Your author is proud to have served his community sandbagging with thousands of others time and time again as the rivers rose. I was sandbagging a breach at the Carondelet and Tesson Court pump station on the morning of August 1 with a contingent of St. Louis firefighters and volunteers. The repair held, never to be tested at that level again. My heart goes out to those whose homes were not so lucky.
Image - Floodwaters halfway up the steps to the St. Louis Gateway Arch
Image - Jim Potts and daughter Elizabeth on the sandbag line (not pictured, Vickie Potts)
Photos and text by Jim Potts, copyright © 1996
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