Twenty years ago, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers combined to become a tour-de-force of destruction, death and savagery. The Great Flood of 1993 is so far the costliest flood in American history, killing dozens of people and causing billions of dollars in losses.

Twenty years ago, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers combined to become a tour-de-force of destruction, death and savagery. The Great Flood of 1993 is so far the costliest flood in American history, killing dozens of people and causing billions of dollars in losses.

Looking back through the Lake Sun’s coverage of the flood in July and August 1993, a report said that nearly 26,000 people were forced out of their homes.

I was four years old at the time of the flood. My family lived about a mile west of the Missisippi River south of the city of St. Louis. Although I don’t remember much of that summer personally, my parents have relayed stories about the summer of 1993 and the effect it had on our family and the area.

The river’s waters — which at the peak flow of the flood, could fill a bowl the size of Busch Stadium (the second one) in 69 seconds — never threatened our family’s home directly. But, my parents received an abrupt awakening one morning with a serious warning. My sister — three years my senior — has a friend in elementary school with an older sister. The older sister, from what I’m told, came to our family’s home early in the morning and told my parents to pack up the car and the kids and get out.

The Mississippi River had come dangerously close to propane tanks in the area. My parents heeded the warning and, from what I’ve been told, we got out of dodge.

We headed to the lake area until the danger had passed. My aunt’s home in Eldon played host to us refugees for a few days as the river’s might and mettle tested the metropolitan St. Louis area.

Members of my family helped with sandbagging operations along the swollen River Des Peres, which despite stringent efforts, destroyed plenty of homes along its banks.

Images produced that summer are startling. Homes awash in muddy waters. Playgrounds submerged. Farmland under ten feet of water. Nearly every levee broken.

Had a flood wall not been built to withstand the flood of 1844, the entire downtown St. Louis area would have been underwater, despite its location on a bluff. The flood wall held the river with two feet to spare.

In western St. Louis County, the Chesterfield Valley became an ocean. A flagpole at the Confluence State Park was invisible in 1993, covered by the rivers.

The flood destroyed the entire town of Valmeyer, Ill. The town relocated after the flood to a higher elevation, and many buildings were built with better energy efficiency.

In Sept. 1993, my family relocated inland, away from the power of the river.

Eventually, the girth of the rivers receded, towns rebuilt, businesses reopened and farmers took back their land.

But not everyone learned lessons. The Chesterfield Valley, now reinforced with a levee, plays home to countless businesses and homes. People have relocated homes within a stone’s throw of the rivers.

And it’s not just in Missouri. People take risks when putting up homes in the path of hurricanes, along a fault line or in the shadow of a volcano (we’re talking internationally here).

When you tempt nature, you’ll lose.

Nature will wreak havoc anywhere you go. Ask my car, which sustained about $7,500 in hail damage thanks to two different storms in less than a year.

If people are willing to accept the risks associated with taking on nature, rest assured that Mother Nature will deal you a worthless hand while playing a royal flush at least once in your life.