It was born in the swirling blizzards of an abnormal severe winter across the northern plains; it was nurtured by a combination of climatic conditions which forced an early runoff of melting snow before the ground was sufficiently thawed to absorb moisture; it savagely matured at the mouths of the swollen Minnesota, St. Croix and Wisconsin rivers.
And before the Great Missisippi River Flood of 1965 died — its fury spent in the vast expanse of the Gulf of Mexico — it had left an awesome trail of heartbreak, suffering and property damage.”
It’s been almost 50 years since those words were written by former Clinton Herald Editor Everett Streit as he chronicled the Great Flood of 1965 in a booklet detailing the disaster that took Clinton to its knees that year.
In fact, it was 48 years ago today that Clintonians and residents across the river in Fulton, Ill., were bracing for those floodwaters. On April 27, 1965, the Mississippi River stage was recorded as 24.7 feet and it was believed that would be the crest.
But that actually didn’t happen until one day later, when the peak hit and officially was recorded as 24.85 feet.
The day that crest was reached, at least 850 Clinton homes were surrounded by water and 36 businesses and 16 industrial plants were out of operation. More than 50 square blocks of the Clinton north-end area were inundated and about 1,000 residents had been driven from their homes. In the south end of the city, more than 25 blocks were flooded.
In the end, estimates put the damage at $5.5 million.
It all led the Clinton City Council to make a formal request for institution of a flood control project. It could make a good case as the city had experienced other costly floods in 1951, 1952 and 1967. A temporary levee built in 1969 under the title “Operation Foresight” saved the city from extensive damage in 1969 and 1973.