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The Great Flood of 1927


The Great Mississippi Flood of April and May 1927 was the most destructive flood in United States history. This flood extended across Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. 


At one point the river was approximately 80 miles wide near Vicksburg, MS. 


The flooding was a result of persistent heavy rainfall across the Central U.S. starting in August 1926 and continuing through the spring of 1927. As unprecedented amounts of run-off from the different tributaries combined, extreme water levels churned by wind overwhelmed the levees protecting the Mississippi Valley floodplains, breaching the flood defenses as the water traveled southward. 


It was not until August 1927 that the last of the floodwaters had flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. For Mississippi, the most significant flooding occurred on April 21st when the Mounds Landing levee broke. This levee lay below the junction with the Arkansas River and approximately 12 miles north of Greenville, Mississippi. Greenville was flooded the next day. In only ten days, one million acres of land across the Mississippi Delta Region were immersed under water at least 10 feet deep. At one time a staggering 27,000 square miles was under water.


In April 1927, Herbert Hoover, Commerce Secretary, was appointed as the official to lead the rescue and relief efforts. Over 700,000 people were then homeless because of the disaster.


He coordinated efforts to rescue 330,000 people from rooftops and other high places. In the Greenville, MS area, large numbers of African Americans were left stranded on the intact sections of the levees. White planters were concerned that if they were relocated from the levee they would leave the area and never return to work the fields. Many did take the opportunity to escape to cities like Chicago, bringing their stories of the misery of the flood and breaking levees to enrich the traditions of blues music. 


Those left in the camps were mistreated. A commission was appointed by Herbert Hoover. The findings were suppressed which helped to change the political affiliation of African Americans. Out of this catastrophic flood grew the Flood Control of 1928, which gave the federal government authority over the containment of the Mississippi River. 


This led to the eventual creation of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MR&T). Property damage was estimated at $350 million dollars, equivalent to approximately $5 billion dollars today. Economic losses were estimated at $1 billion (1927 dollars), which was equivalent to almost one-third of the federal budget at that time.

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