Valmeyer Illinois:
Getting out of harm's way

Laurie Brown (left) will never forget the flood that destroyed her home and devastated her home town of Valmeyer, Illinois. About 900 people were living in the floodplain farming town in 1993 when record floodwaters on the Upper Mississippi broke through the large levees that line the banks of the river. Laurie, Valmeyer's City Clerk, recalls that in the dark of night--as a wall of water approached Valmeyer's houses, school, shops, and fire station--"the only sound was the corn stalks being broken off by the wave of water."

The destruction was so complete that the residents of Valmeyer took the unusual step of moving the town out of the river's way. Today, 460 residents live in new homes on top of the bluff. About 15 homes remain on the old townsite, most on the highest ground where the '93 flood did the least damage. The rest of Valmeyer's residents moved away.

The federal and state governments provided funds to assist the town in moving to a new location instead of spending emergency relief money to rebuild homes in an area that could be flooded again.

Laurie says the move has been a mixed experience. While she's happy not to have to worry about floods, she says, "the new town is kind of like a housing development, and many of us miss the older homes we once had."

Living with Floods:
Two solutions--
which would you choose?

Valmeyer's fire station was one of many buildings underwater in the Great Flood of 1993.

The now-abandonded fire station today. Except for about 15 houses, the entire town has moved from the flood plain... the top of the bluff. This is Valmeyer's new fire and police station, now well out of reach of the Mississippi's waters.

Which of the two solutions presented on this page would you rather adopt if you lived in a town subject to severe flooding? Why? Do you have other ideas for dealing with floods?

Cape Girardeau, Missouri:
Building a flood wall

Cape Girardeau's flood wall has two gates like this. Residents have made the cement wall more attractive to live with by painting murals on both sides.

Return to the
Chasing the Flood
Activities page

A more common response to flooding is the strategy adopted by Cape Girardeau, Missouri--building a flood wall to keep the river in its channel and out of the historic riverfront district. In the photo at right, the 20-foot floodwall at the end of the street blocks direct views of the river from street level and cuts the city off from the river at its door. Heavy gates, such as that at left, are swung shut during times of high water.

One problem associated with flood walls and levees is that they can increase the severity of flooding elsewhere. When a flooding river is prevented from spreading out into its natural floodplain, the water has no where to go but up.This can result in worse flooding downstream and upstream, where higher water and increased pressure can wash out or overflow levees and flood walls.

Center for Global Environmental Education
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