Standing on the Bank

In July 1993 I stood in Riverview Park in Hannibal, MO and looked to the east. As far as I could see was water; the Mississippi River was about 12 miles wide at that time. Standing next to me was an 80-year-old man; we stood there in silence for what seemed like several minutes. He said “Never in my lifetime did I expect to see this.”

Thousands of acres of farm land and small towns like Hull, IL was covered with 7 to 10 feet of water, depending on where you measured. The I-72 overpass stuck up out of the water like the back of a whale. A million gallons of water per second flowed by, and one of the most memorable video clips of a farm house being washed away was shown over and over on the national news.

James Robert “Jimmy” Scott was the first man ever convicted of causing a catastrophe when convicted of physically removing sandbags from the levee near Quincy, IL causing it to break. He is currently serving a 20-year sentence. But that wasn’t the only levee that failed. Over a hundred levees failed or were overrun by the rapidly swelling river that year, fed by weeks of rain falling on already saturated ground.

In a five-month stretch starting April 1, 1993, nearly 48 inches fell in east-central Iowa, where an average of 33 inches of precipitation normally falls in an entire year.

By mid-June, soil throughout the entire region was saturated, so additional rains brought heavy runoff. In many locations within the nine-state area hardest hit by the flooding, it rained for 20 or more days in July; normally it rains eight or nine days during that month.

An unusual climate setup fueled the rains. A high pressure system known as the Bermuda High, which typically sits out in the Atlantic Ocean during summer and steers hurricanes toward the United States, was stronger than normal and moved farther to the north and west. This created a dam of air that stopped storms in their tracks over the Midwest, preventing them from sliding to the East Coast as they normally would.

The Missouri River crested at a record 48.9 feet at Kansas City on July 27, 1993. This water joined the already full Mississippi River and pushed the Mississippi to a record crest of 49.6 feet at St. Louis in Aug. 1.

Some locations on the Mississippi River were in continuous flood for six months.

The Mississippi River at St. Louis crested at 49.6 feet on August 1, nearly 20 feet above flood stage and had a peak flow rate of 1.08 Million cubic feet per second. At this rate, a bowl the size of Busch Stadium would be filled to the brim in 69 seconds. The flood stage at Hannibal is 16 feet. On July 10, 1993 the Mississippi crested at 32 feet at Hannibal.

All rail traffic was stopped in the Midwest. Many highways were closed, and 10 commercial air ports were closed.  50 people died, thousands were displaced, and over 50,000 homes were destroyed. The final cost was estimated at $15 billion dollars.

Harry Smith, anchor for CBS news at the time, spent a lot of time along the Mississippi River that summer, and he was moved by the way people of each community came together to fill sandbags and re-enforce the levees. Not only that, but he saw people from other towns, counties, even states show up to help. I remember seeing his newscasts, and a couple of times he was a bit emotional seeing how people came together and helped each other.

3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. –Philippians 2

Luke 6:31- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Help others the way you would want to be helped.

We are all standing on the bank of the River of Time; we stand on the side called Now and Today, and looking across, there is the bank called Forever and Eternity and just beyond is Heaven.

The only way to the other side is the path made by Jesus Christ, a path that goes through Time, formed by His own body sacrificed on the cross, the way marked by His blood, illuminated by His Living Glory, showing those who follow Him the way to Heaven. Those who reject this path will be swept downriver, trapped in Time, eternally separated from Him, finally being lost in the great pool of fire called Hell when Time runs out.

Now and Today is the chance we have to decide to follow Christ. Tomorrow is always in the future, and may never arrive.

12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, –John 1