20 years ago: West Quincy levee break - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

20 years ago: West Quincy levee break

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Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of the day the levee broke in West Quincy, Missouri, and changed the landscape of the Tri-State area.

In 1993, Tri-State residents spent much of the summer sandbagging and fighting to hold back the river, and progress was being made. The river was starting to fall. But on July 16th, the levee broke, washing out land and bridges for miles. A barge that was sitting in the river ran into a gas station and a fire started.

But in the 20 years since the levee break, emergency preparations have come a long way. Roger Sutter, president of the Fabius River Drainage District, was working on the levee that day. He says at that time the levee wasn't nearly as wide as it is now, and they didn't have patrols keeping people off the levee that shouldn't be there.

He says they fight floods differently now.

"During the flood fight, just like we had in 2008 communication was huge. Whether we're talking to the media or on the radio and we used a lot of different tools in 2008 that weren't available to us in 1993," said Sutter. 

Sutter says they've made millions of dollars of improvements on the levees, and they use smaller lighter equipment such as skid steers to move sand much faster than they did 20 years ago with heavier bulldozers to build the levee up.

Adams County Emergency Management Director John Simon says his experience as a 14-year-old volunteering during the flood pointed him to his career today. 

He says we'd be better prepared to fight a catastrophe of those proportions today.

"We've seen a big difference in even just the mechanical way we fight the flood," said Simon. "We have more machines able to move more material faster with less manpower."

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