25-Years Later People Still Ask, ‘Would the Levee Had Held?’
The summer of 1993 is one that will never be forgotten by those who lived around here as the Mississippi River let us all know who was boss with a little help. For weeks people were preparing to keep the river at bay, but unfortunately that all ended 25 years ago today when the levee was broken in West Quincy.
We all knew when it happened because the news and the river spread like wildfire. What we didn't know at the time was that the levee failed thanks to the assistance of Quincy native James Scott, who was eventually convicted of "creating a catastrophe" by removing sand bags in the area of the levee break. Twenty five years later people are still asking "would the levee have held back the rising water on its own?" Only God knows.
All of the work done to hold off the Mississippi River and to keep West Quincy dry and keep the Bayview Bridge open in 1993 was wiped out by the senseless removal of a few sand bags. As a result from July 16 through September 25, there was no vehicular traffic from Illinois into Missouri, and vice versa.
Not only did the water come streaming into West Quincy, but soon thereafter a renegade barge broke loose and managed to make its way through the break and float into West Quincy. It slammed into a gas tank, causing a huge fireball which ended up floating through the fields of West Quincy until it burnt itself out.
If you remember the pictures of the huge fireball at the gas station on TV, you know what an awesome sight it was to see the fire and the water overcoming the area. That memorable video was shot by my good friend Steve Looten who was the Sports Director for WGEM-TV at the time.
James Scott became an immediate suspect when he appeared on live TV near the break area shortly after the levee had broken. Scott was being interview by then WGEM reporter Michelle McCormack when law enforcement personnel, including then Adams County Sheriff Bob Nall, were watching. Nall, having known Scott's criminal past, immediately put him on the radar for having caused the break. As it turned out he was correct.
Scott is now in jail in Jefferson City, Missouri serving a life sentence for his actions. So where were you when you heard the news of the levee break in West Quincy? Were you a part of the thousands of people who helped with the fight to hold back the Mississippi River?