Publication Date May 3, 2017

Mayors worry warming means more pain on the Mississippi

United States
A boat carrying sandbags moves down South Central Avenue on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. As the floodwater from the Meramec River approached a record crest, the sandbags appeared to be holding back the water. Photo: David Carson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Mayors along the Mississippi River said yesterday that they worry about more frequent extreme weather like the storms that killed as many as 20 people across a wide swath of the South and Midwest in recent days.

Beyond the loss of life, the storms and associated flooding have economic ramifications that linger for years, said Mayor Brant Walker of Alton, Ill., a town 25 miles upriver from St. Louis. The 180-year-old town has had five flood events in the past four years, he said. Four of those have been in the top 10 flood events in Alton's history.

"This is one of the many consequences associated with elevated climate risk," Walker said. "We're now living in a world of extremes on the Mississippi River. We just don't get normal spring rains anymore. We get huge downpours."

Walker was among several mayors along the Mississippi who spoke yesterday as part of an effort by the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative to bring attention and investment in resilient infrastructure to the 10 states that border the river (Greenwire, March 2).

The storms follow historic flooding that in 2016 that added up to more than $10 billion in disaster impacts along the 10-state corridor.


Flooding has long been a part of life along the Mississippi. But in recent years, catastrophic flooding, often driven by unexpectedly heavy rain events, has swept through many states. Some were tropical systems, like Hurricane Matthew. Many more were big rain events that caught people by surprise in places like Houston and Baton Rouge, La.