Mental Floss

It's Raining, It's Pouring: 6 Awful Floods

Stacy Conradt
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Water, water, water, water"¦ I live in Des Moines so that's sort of all I'm hearing about right now. Rain water, sewer water, river water, bottled water, watery water"¦ there's lots of water everywhere you look right now. Except maybe the grocery stores.

You've probably heard that areas of the Midwest are flooding pretty badly right now; Des Moines is bad but better than some areas. I guess my hometown of Ottumwa is taking a pretty good hit; a friend saw a carp floating down his street yesterday. Here's what Des Moines looks like right now:

That's a road leading into downtown—you can see part of the skyline in the background. For more pictures of DSM, check out my local blog. I'll just say this: some people will not stop their daily runs for anything.

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Anyway, I figured it was a good time to revisit some big floods of the past. I did leave out some very obvious ones, since I think most of us know the details of those (Katrina flooding, the 2004 tsunami).

The Great Flood of 1993

A man in Illinois actually received a life sentence for his role in the flooding there—he removed sandbags from a levee because he wanted to strand his wife on the other side of the river. When the water found its way through the hole he had created, 14,000 acres of farmland were flooded, buildings were destroyed and a bridge was closed.

Some areas off of the Mississippi were flooded for nearly 200 days. About 10,000 homes were destroyed, along with 15 million acres of farmland and two entire towns (Valmeyer, Ill. and Rhineland, Mo.). The official death toll was 32 and the damage was estimated at $20 billion.

The 1931 China floods

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The area had been plagued with weather problems for at least two years leading up to the big floods—first, a long draught from 1928-1930. Very heavy snowstorms hit during the winter of 1930/1931 and heavy rains that spring. Then, in July, the area was pummeled with cyclones, and, finally, the flood. Most major rivers in China flooded substantially, including the Yangtze, the Yellow and the Huai.

The North Sea Flood of 1953

It could have been worse for Netherland, though. A hole in the Schielandse Hoge Zeedijk dyke could have meant the death of three million people if not plugged. The mayor of Nieuwerkerk had a ship lodge itself in the hole, and to everyone's surprise, the plan worked.

All of this devastation resulted in something good, though—the Delta Works (a combination of dams, sluices, locks, dikes and storm surge barriers) were created. They are thought to be the world's largest and most elaborate protection against flooding.

The Red River Flood of 1997

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The 2000 Mozambique flood

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Even though 800 died, more than 45,000 were rescued from places like rooftops and trees. One woman even gave birth while stranded in a tree.

The Hunter Valley floods of 1955

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Shhh...super secret special for blog readers.

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