The failure of 150 years of national policies to solve the problems of flooding in the Mississippi River system was clearly illustrated by the impacts of three recent floods.
• A major summer (June and July) 1993 flood affected the Upper Mississippi and Lower Missouri Rivers (Changnon, 1996a), leading to $ 18 billion in losses and responses.
• In July 1996 a record-setting 43 cm rainstorm in 24 h occurred in Illinois with a large flash flood covering 15,000 km2 in a matter of hours, engulfing a third of Chicago's suburban area in the headwaters of the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi (Fig. 1).
• In 1997, a massive early spring flood occurred along the Ohio River, inundating many areas considered flood proof in five states.
Assessment of the impacts from recent flooding on the Mississippi River system drew heavily on events with these three recent, yet different types of floods. Major impacts were found in four broad sectors: (1) economic impacts, (2) environmental effects, (3) impacts to and responses by government at the local, state, and federal levels, and (4) social disruption.
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