For four hours on Saturday, July 28, local author Kenneth Kieser signed books and shared memories of the flood of 1993.
Last weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the disaster, which Kieser wrote a book titled: “Missouri’s Great Flood of ‘93, Revisiting an Epic Natural Disaster” in 2013.
The flood destroyed 75 towns across the Midwest and the damages incurred were more than $20 billion. There were 47 people that lost their lives in the flood.
The National Weather Service noted after the flood some places were still above the flood stage for five months.
The crest of the flood in this area came in late July of 1993, as water reached 48 feet, 8 inches in Riverside, according to Gary Brenner, then the Riverside meteorologist at the time of the flood.
Kieser, a Lake Waukomis resident, had some unique perspectives that allowed him get views and photos that not many other people could. He was on the board of directors for the Outdoor Writers Association of America and was asked to take photos of the flood damage to show members of Congress.
A fax from D.C. came to Kieser and he used to show it to local officials, which allowed him to go on the boats that went over flooded areas in Platte County.
Prior to taking the photos, Kieser joined in with other volunteers, about 1,000 people, to help fill sandbags.
“It was incredible how many people stepped up,” he said.
Current Riverside mayor Kathy Rose remembers doing the same thing, filling sandbags to try to save her’s dad business, that ultimately had 8 feet of water inside of it, among other parts of Riverside.
At the time of the flood, her mother, Betty Burch, was the mayor of Riverside.
“We had hundreds doing it ... it was a valiant effort, but it was all for naught,” Rose said.
There are memories from those trips in the water-filled areas that still are seared in the memory of Kieser, who writes outdoor columns for The Examiner in Independence, Mo. One was bumping into a willow tree full of snakes. Another was seeing a propane tank floating, while 1,500 2x4s from Sutherland’s floating like branches was a strange sight.
The eerie silence was the worst, he said.
“Floods are dangerous,” he said. “It’s incredible how fast this one came in. A lot of people in Riverside and Parkville and even up north in St. Joe lost everything. The water came in so fast.”
He held onto the photos for 19 years before he was asked if he would write a book about it by his friend, Michael Bushnell. His book can be purchased by mailing him $22 for a soft cover or $32 for a hard cover book at PO Box 901414, Kansas City, MO. 65764.
Many that stopped by Kieser’s table at Red-X talked about the flood. Some went through it. Others told stories of relatives losing everything.
“The reason I wrote the book was so that the next generation could learn from it and learn how different towns stepped up and reacted to it,” Kieser said.
Red-X was one of many businesses damaged in the flood, but it reopened in its previous location. Brenner noted on July 23, 1993, the business had two feet of water. By the end of the flood, only the roof of the building was visible.
“It was surreal being out in the boats and being able to touch the roofs of buildings,” Rose recalled.
Jim McCall owned Papa Frank’s — the location now is Parkville Coffee — on Main Street in Parkville and 8 feet of water entered his building. A few doors down, the American Legion building was covered up by 12 feet of water.
The Charles B. Wheeler Airport was evacuated due to high waters, while the flood came up just to the bottom of the Buck O’Neil Bridge, then called the Broadway Bridge.
A winter full of plenty of snow, combined with 40 inches of rain between May and July were factors in the great flood.
Locally, former Platte County Citizen editor Paul Campbell wrote about the impact.
Bean Lake, northwest of the Iatan power plant, was flooded. In the KCP&L plant, a skeleton crew rode boats to get to work and in the bottom floor of the power plant, fish swam around the employees.
The road from Tracy to Leavenworth, Kan., was flooded. Weston was without water, relying on Platte City and Leavenworth to provide it temporarily.
Campbell also noted the impact of Interstate 635 closing down due to the flood. Brenner noted in his logs on July 25, he had driven across to Kansas and back on the interstate but the next day that was impossible.
“Chunks of 635 collapsed,” Rose, a Riverside alderman at the time, recalls. “It was pretty awe inspiring. I never understood the power of water. The water was so powerful for what it did. That is what I will always remember.
“It was just unbelievable unless you witnessed it. It was quite an ordeal for people. We need to tell the story so people will never forget it.”