Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

April 16, 2002


Provided by: NOAA
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster

In the autumn of 1926, heavy rains plagued America's heartland. The precipitation didn't let up much during the winter, and by early spring, the soil was soaked from Minnesota to Mississippi. The rains persisted into April, setting the stage for one of the most devastating, widespread floods in the history of the US - 75 years ago this spring.

By mid-April of 1927, the "Big Muddy" had risen to unprecedented heights after violent spring storms poured even more water into the already swollen river. The flood waters of the Mississippi were one mile (1.6 km) wide, approximately 100 feet (32 m) deep and were moving downriver at about 9 miles (14 km) per hour - an impressive clip for a river having such a shallow slope. As the crest approached, tributaries to the Mississippi actually flowed backwards since the volume of water passing by on the big river was much higher than the water level of the rivers feeding into it.

It's said that people who live in flood-prone areas along the Mississippi River fear only God and the Mississippi. They had a right to be fearful in the spring of 1927. The Mississippi River flooded nearly the entire length of its course as levees busted apart in more than 100 places.The Big Muddy and its tributaries flooded more than 26,000 square miles (67,340 square km) in seven states, and in a few locations along its course, the Mississippi River became an 80 mile (128 km) wide inland sea. Nearly 700,000 people were evacuated or left homeless by floodwaters. Although 247 people were confirmed dead, the actual total of people who lost their lives in the flooding was over 1,000.

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