Twenty years later: The flood of '93

Twenty years ago, the Missouri River reached its all-time record crest of 38.65 feet.

"Seeing the bottom flood, it wasnâ??t really a unique thing," said Eric Schroeter, MoDOT district operations engineer.

"Everybodyâ??d seen different years where the water got alongside of the road. But to finally lose 54, that took us to a whole new level."

MoDOT District Operations Engineer Eric Schroeter remembers July 29, 1993, as a seminal day for highway construction in the Show-Me State.

That was the day MoDOT lost the battle to keep Highway 54 open through the Missouri River valley. Beginning the day before, road crews had desperately erected a makeshift flood wall from concrete median barriers.

Each ten feet long and weighing over a ton, the concrete sections actually held the water back for several hours. But late in the afternoon on the 29th, as the river reached the top of the wall, the pressure began to push the barriers out of position. MoDOT halted traffic and evacuated the valley.

"Thereâ??s that discussion of, â??What if we had tied the barrier together? What if we had pinned it to the road?â?? But also, at that same time, you have to consider â??Whatâ??s the risk if it fails?â??," said Schroeter.

The water cascaded over and through the barriers, creating a churning current, which ultimately eroded the sand beneath the northbound lanes, causing them to collapse.

The road was closed for several days, turning the six-minute drive from Jefferson City to Holts Summit into a trip of two and a half hours by way of California, Boonville and Fulton.

Within three weeks, the northbound lanes of 54 were rebuilt, not on a bed of soil and river sand as before, but a foundation of large, heavy rocks.

"It took forever, it seemed like, haulinâ?? in load after load after load to fill in the holes and get a solid foundation," said Schroeter. "But itâ??s also bought us some insurance in the future."

Since the interview with Eric Schroeter, he has become MoDOTâ??s assistant design engineer.

Just a few months ago, the Missouri River flooded sections of the valley. That crest was 30.79 feet.

It ranks tenth all-time and was nearly eight feet lower than the record crest of 1993.