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Massive Floods Strike U.S. Midwest--Again

One-hundred-year floods are happening every 15 years or so

The cities along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in Iowa are the latest victims of heavy rains in early June, with cities farther down the river expected to face the cresting waters in coming days. The scale of devastation may match the $15 billion in damages wrought by a similar flood in 1993, when waters crested at nearly 50 feet in St. Louis. Already, thousands of residents have had to be evacuated and thousands of homes have been ruined—though a federal government program to purchase low-lying lands in the wake of the 1993 flood has mitigated some of the damage this time.

The floods are a result of unusually strong rains in recent weeks and the high waters will leave a lasting impact on the affected areas: from potentially polluted residues to crop losses. Part of the damage has been a result of levees failing as they cope with water levels higher than anticipated. In fact, just yesterday a levee in Gulfport, Ill., burst, inundating the surrounding area and forcing the rescue of several people by helicopter as well as a general evacuation.

But this flood, unlike its predecessor in 1993, is unlikely to linger long. It may soon be followed, however, by yet more flooding in coming years: climate change may increase the likelihood of extreme weather, such as excessive summer rains, that give rise to such natural disasters.

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