Although this issue of Disaster Recovery Journal had already been printed, mailing was halted so that we could bring you this special report on this major event. This disaster will have a far-reaching impact on disaster recovery. Many companies all along the Mississippi and other rivers were forced to implement their recovery plans, if they had one. For many disaster recovery planners, this was the first real test of their work. Hopefully we can learn from their experiences. Terrorist bombings, blizzards, drought and record floods have caused unprecedented damage. These are exactly the kind of events that disaster recovery planners prepare for, but hope they never have to experience.
When it comes to disasters, the east and west coast have their claims to fame (i. e., The World Trade Center Bombing and the L. A. Riots), but in doing it bigger and better, don't count out the Midwest.
Residents living along the river are no strangers to floods, but this one is the worst yet. When the Mississippi River started rising, many of its tributaries rose with it. The level of the water over came some levees, broke others, forced neighborhoods to be evacuated, and flooded millions of acres of farm land. Places that were once dry are now submerged. Houses, cars, barns, crops, streets, bridges, etc., are all under water. Barges are tied up because traffic on the rivers is at a stand still. One point eight million acres of farmland were flooded in Illinois and Missouri.
One levee brake was so large that a barge moored on the Mississippi got sucked through the opening. Two hundred-plus roads have been closed in Missouri alone.
The Mississippi crested on Sunday, July 18, at a record setting 46.9 feet. This is 2.77 feet above the earlier record set in 1973.
The St. Louis area has 200 regular Coast Guard, most stationed in the district office and 170 well-trained reservists, who came from as far of as Memphis, TN, and Leavenworth, KS.
Joe Friday, head of the National Weather Service said, "The extent of flooding in the Midwest is a first in the 150 years that the federal government has been keeping weather records"
The superintendent of the Gateway Arch calls his monument "Noah's Arch." He's kidding, of course. The Arch, the city's signature landmark, remains high and dry, and is equipped with 500-gallon-a-minute pumps that surround the substructure.
This great disaster has caught the attention of the President and Vice President of the United States. Vice President Al Gore came to St. Louis on Monday, July 12, to asses the damage. He came back with President Clinton, on Saturday, July 17. Armed with checks and surrounded by members of his Cabinet, President Clinton promised the governors of eight flood-damaged states that his administration would not abandon them once the water recedes.
One of the main lessons of this disaster, which is a lesson all DR planners should know, is to never underestimate Mother Nature. Most levees did not hold out, giving a sense of urgency to a disaster that had mostly unfolded in slow motion.
Richard L. Arnold, CDRP, is Editor-in-Chief of the Disaster Recovery Journal.
All photos in this Special Report were taken by the staff of the Disaster Recovery Journal. Richard would like to thank Mike Beckerle, Editor, and the Staff of DRJ for their work on this Special Report.