Great St. Louis Flood of 1903

     In early June 1903, flood waters from the Missouri pushed into the Mississippi Rivers and deluged East St. Louis, Illinois and flooded the St. Louis Riverfront.  Before the flood water subsided, 12,000 East St. Louisans sought refuge in St. Louis.  The flood led the Metro East to adopt a levee system to protect the Illinois side of the Mississippi from being destroyed by future floods.

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1903 Flood on First Street in St. Louis, MO

     The Missouri River at Kansas City flooded in the first week of June 1903 and wiped out the entire “Bottoms” area of Kansas City.   The river would crest at St. Louis on June 9 for the first time at 37.5 feet.  While the river flooded First Street on the levee, it submerged most of the Metro East.

     East St. Louis and Venice were almost completely submerged while Granite City was an island.  The residents of the St. Louis Metro Area thought the worst was over on June 7, 1903.  When the Mississippi River crested a second time on June 9, 1903, the residents of Venice, Madison and Granite City abandoned the towns.

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Flooded Levee During the St. Louis Flood of 1903

     The second rise led many East St. Louis residents to travel across the Eads Bridge to sanctuary in St. Louis.  St. Louis sheltered 12,000 East St. Louis residents until the raging waters subsided.  On June 12, 1903, Illinois State militia shot a man attempting to cut into the levee.  East St. Louis Police thought the man was trying to drain water from his employer’s property.  The water would have flooded the center and Downtown areas of East St. Louis.  East St. Louis residents were able to return to their water logged homes by June 16, 1903.

1903 Flood at Chestnut Street

The 1903 Flood on the Levee looking North from Chestnut Street

     The 1903 Flood was not the most damaging to St. Louis itself.  According to St. Louis Then and Now, the 1844 Flood reached Second Street.  The Mississippi River was twelve miles wide at St. Louis during the 1844 Flood.  The Mississippi River is one of the wonders of nature but “Ole Man River” occasionally bursts its banks and threatens the city that it helped build.  In 1903, it was one of the worst.

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