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Vintage KSDK: 30th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1993

The disaster played out over 20 million acres in nine states. Losses were estimated at $15 to $20 billion.
Credit: KSDK
A white farmhouse in Monroe County, Il., is swept away after a levee broke on the Mississippi River on August 1, 1993.

ST. LOUIS — Our Vintage KSDK takes us back to the Great Flood of 1993.

30 years ago the summer, the disaster played out over 20 million acres in nine states.

The widespread devastation captured in a single moment: 5 On Your Side photojournalist Joe Young was riding in a helicopter, camera rolling, when rushing flood water broke through a levee in Monroe County, Illinois.

It was Sunday, August 1, 1993.

"The house is starting to go,” said anchor Jeff Fowler, back in the 5 On Your Side studio.

“Oh Jeff, it's unbelievable,” replied anchor Jean Jackson, also riding in the helicopter. “There it goes. Just now lifted off the foundation and it’s just crumbling in the rapid and the violent waters here that are coming through just about three miles south of the Jefferson Barracks Bridge.”

A white farmhouse that had been in the Gummersheimer family for decades.

"I'm sure they'd turn over in their graves if they knew what happened," said current occupant Earl Gummersheimer of the reaction his ancestors would likely have if they knew their home had been washed away.

On that same day, the Mississippi River reached 49.58 feet, the highest level ever recorded in the city of St. Louis.

Crowds gathered under the Gateway Arch to see the awesome power of Mother Nature.

Just two days earlier, the Monarch Levee broke. It protected the Chesterfield Valley from the flooding Missouri River.

Thousands of homeowners and business owners evacuated.

"It's incredible. An act of God. Nothing will ever happen like this again in our lifetime," said one evacuee.

The man who oversaw Chesterfield Airport at the time evacuated 700 planes in under 24 hours.

"Police called me on the radio and said the levee has broken and there's a five foot wall of water heading your way," said Richard Hrabko, chief executive of Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, recalling that time.

A long section of Highway 40 as it was known at the time, was washed away, the lanes of a major highway disappearing into the murky water.

Thirteen feet of water covered everything, including the iconic Smoke House Market.

All along the Missouri and Mississippi, and many smaller rivers and creeks in between, thousands sandbagged to try to save their property, many more than once.

In the town of Valmeyer, Illinois, almost every building and home was damaged, forcing the town to later relocate to higher ground.

Losses were estimated at $15 to $20 billion.

A summer those who lived through it would never forget.

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