Open main menu

Mississippi River floods

Lower Mississippi River levees.

The Mississippi River and its tributaries have flooded on numerous occasions.[1] This is a list of major floods.


Flood of March 1543Edit

Hernando de Soto's party was passing through a village at the confluence of the Mississippi River and Arkansas River on March 18. The ensuing flood only allowed passage by canoe and inundated fields surrounding the town.[2]

The flooding reportedly lasted for 40 days.[3][4]

Flood of 1734-35Edit

From December to June the City of New Orleans was inundated.[4][5]

Flood of 1788Edit

In July, severe flooding of the Mississippi River resulted from a hurricane landfall.[5]

Flood of 1809Edit

All of the lower Mississippi River was inundated by flooding.[5]

Flood of 1825Edit

The flood of 1825 is the last known inundation of New Orleans due to spring flooding.[5]

Great Flood of 1844Edit

The largest flood ever recorded on the Missouri River and Upper Mississippi River in terms of discharge. This flood was particularly devastating since the region had few if any levees at the time. Among the hardest hit were the Wyandot who lost 100 people in the diseases that occurred after the flood. The flood also is the highest recorded for the Mississippi River at St. Louis. After the flood, Congress in 1849 passed the Swamp Act providing land grants to build stronger levees.[6]

Great Flood of 1851Edit

The flood occurred after record-setting rainfalls across the U.S. Midwest and Plains from May to August, 1851. The State of Iowa experienced significant flooding extending to the Lower Mississippi River basin. Historical evidence suggest flooding occurred in the eastern Plains, from Nebraska to the Red River basin, but these areas were sparsely settled in 1851. Heavy rainfall also occurred in the Ohio River basin. In June, major flooding on the Mississippi River was experienced.[4][5]

Map of areas affected by the Great Overflow of 1874.

Great Mississippi Flood of 1874Edit

Heavy spring rains caused the Mississippi River to overflow, breaching levees and flooding enormous swathes of the Lower Mississippi Valley. The flooding began in February and only began to recede on May 20th. According to the New Orleans Daily Picayune of May 3rd, thirty-one of Louisiana's fifty-three parishes (home to some 375,000 people) were entirely or partially underwater. The Picayune also reported that breaches at Hushpakana[sic.] and Bolivar, Mississippi, had "transformed the Yazoo Valley into an inland lake."[7] Mayor Louis A. Wiltz of New Orleans published a circular on May 30th addressed to "the Mayors of thirty-four large American cities" seeking contributions of cash and provisions for relief efforts. In the circular, the Flood of 1874 was described as the highest on record. It also included the observations of former U.S. Surveyor General for Louisiana William J. McCulloh, who estimated that a total of 12,565,060 acres had been flooded across Louisiana (8,065,000), Mississippi (2,500,000), and Arkansas (2,000,000).[8]

Flood of 1882Edit

Intense spring rain storms beginning on February 19, 1882, led to a rapid rise of the Ohio River and flooding along the river from Cincinnati to St. Louis. The effects were much more devastating in the Lower Mississippi Valley, with an estimated 20,000 people made homeless in Arkansas alone. Such was the devastation that, in its wake, Southern Democrats and Midwestern Republicans in Congress hailing from those states afflicted by the flooding made common cause to increase appropriations for the Rivers and Harbor Act to $19 million, $5.4 million of which was earmarked for internal improvements and federal aid to the flooded areas. While not opposed to internal improvements on principle, President Chester A. Arthur nonetheless vetoed the Act on August 1, 1882. Congress overrode his veto the following day.[9]

Great Mississippi Flood of 1927Edit

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, Arkansas City, Arkansas.

The 1927 flood was the greatest flood in modern history on the lower Mississippi River. In the summer of 1926 until the spring of 1927, heavy rains fell in eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Ohio Valley. The White and Little Red rivers broke through the levees in Arkansas in February, flooding over 400 km2 (99,000 acres) with 3 to 5 m (9.8 to 16.4 ft) of water.[10] The first levee break along the Mississippi River occurred a few miles south of Elaine, Arkansas on March 29.[2]

Over the next six weeks, numerous levees broke along the Mississippi River from Illinois to Louisiana, which inundated numerous towns in the Mississippi Valley. The break at Mounds Landing near Greenville, Mississippi was the single greatest crevasse to ever occur along the Mississippi River. It flooded an area 80 km (50 mi) wide and 160 km (99 mi) long with up to 6 metres (20 ft) of water. Heavy spring rains caused a second major flood in the same region that June. In all, 73,500 km2 (28,400 sq mi) which were home to more than 931,000 people were inundated. To avoid flooding the city of New Orleans, the governor of Louisiana allowed engineers to create the Poydras cut, which saved the city but led to the flooding of St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes instead. Millions of acres across seven states were flooded. Evacuees totaled 500,000. Economic losses were estimated at US$1 billion (1927 dollars), which was equivalent to almost one-third of the federal budget at that time. [11]

Great Flood of 1937Edit

The Ohio River flood of 1937 occurred from late January to February 1937. With its damage stretching from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois, leaving millions of people homeless, with 385 dead and property losses exceeding $500 million. The Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened for the first time and had 285 of the 350 bays opened for 48 days. New Orleans crested at 19.29 feet (5.88 m) on Feb 28th.[5]

Flood of 1945Edit

Flooding between March and May resulted in Baton Rouge reaching its second highest recorded crest at 45.18 feet (13.77 m) on April 29. The Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened for the second time for 57 days.[5]

Mississippi Flood of 1973Edit

Aerial view of the flood waters in Morgan City, Louisiana May, 1973

The Mississippi Flood of 1973 occurred between March and May 1973 on the lower Mississippi River.[5] The flood resulted in the largest volume of water to flow down the Mississippi since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Both the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Morganza Spillway were employed. The Bonnet Carre was fully opened between April 7 and June 14 for a record 75 days. The 1973 flood was the first time the Morganza Spillway was opened: from April 19 through June 13.

Flood of 1975Edit

In April, 225 bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway were opened for 15 days, the shortest duration on record. Reserve, Louisiana had a crest of 24 feet (7.3 m) on April 14. the 8th highest on record.[5]

Flood of 1979Edit

April, all 350 bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway were opened for 45 days. Red River Landing crested at 59.19 feet (18.04 m) on April 23.[5]

Lower Mississippi Flood of 1983Edit

The flood between May and June was the second most severe flood in the lower Mississippi Basin since 1927. Red River Landing, Louisiana, reached the 4th highest crest of record at 60.52 feet (18.45 m) on June 5 and was flooded for 115 days. All bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway were opened for 35 days.[5]

Great Flood of 1993, with the Mississippi River out of its banks in Festus, Missouri.

Great Mississippi and Missouri Rivers Flood of 1993Edit

The flood occurred on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries between April to October 1993. The flooded area totaled around 30,000 square miles (80,000 km²)[12] and was the worst since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 as measured by duration, square miles inundated, persons displaced, crop and property damage and number of record river levels.

Flood of 2002Edit

In April, Red River Landing reached 58.60 ft (17.86 m), the 8th highest crest on record.[5][13]

Flood of 2008Edit

Between April 11 and May 12, heavy rain in the Mississippi River Valley necessitated the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway for the first time in 11 years. 160 bays were opened for 31 days. Red River Landing crested at 60.68 feet (18.50 m) on April 24, the 3rd highest on record .[5]

Great Mississippi Flood of 2011Edit

Old train depot along the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Mississippi., May 13, 2011.

The Mississippi River floods in April and May 2011 were among the largest and most damaging along the U.S. waterway in the past century, rivalling major floods in 1927 and 1993. In April 2011, two major storm systems dumped record rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed. Rising from springtime snowmelt, the river and many of its tributaries began to swell to record levels by the beginning of May. Areas along the Mississippi itself experiencing flooding include Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. U.S. President Barack Obama declared the western counties of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi federal disaster areas.[14] For the second time in 38 years, the Morganza Spillway has been opened, deliberately flooding 4,600 square miles (12,000 km2) of rural Louisiana to save most of Baton Rouge and New Orleans.[15]

Flood of 2014Edit

The Upper Mississippi River flooded in the summer of 2014 as the result of record rainfall in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.[16]

2017 floodingEdit

The middle portion of the Mississippi is expected to approach historical record flooding. The National Weather Service anticipates a 48.5 ft. crest at Cape Girardeau, Missouri on May 5, 2017, which is within 6 inches of the January 2, 2016 crest of 48.86 ft.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "SR/SSD 98-9". NOAA. March 1, 1998. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-24 |contribution= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b Edmondson, Brad (15 September 2005). "1927 Mississippi River flood". ePodunk. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  3. ^ World Meteorological Organization. The Associated Programme on flood Management. Retrieved on 2006-11-30.
  4. ^ a b c Hoyt, William G. and W.B. Langbein. "Floods". New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1955. p. 422.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "High Flows and Flood History on the Lower Mississippi River". National Weather Service. 2010-03-12. Retrieved 2011-05-20.
  6. ^ Jackson County 175th Anniversary Timeline Archived 2010-12-17 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "The Inundation: Its Extent and its Consequences". The Daily Picayune. May 3, 1874.
  8. ^ Wiltz, Louis A. (1874). The Great Mississippi Flood of 1874. Its Extent, Duration and Effects. New Orleans: Picayune Steam Book and Job Print.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Robert C. (2001). "On This Day: May 13, 1882". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "75th Anniversary of the Great Flood of 1927". Archived from the original on 31 March 2003. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  11. ^ "Mississippi Floods – Archive Collection – TIME". Time.
  12. ^ (in English) "High Water: Building A Global Flood Atlas". NASA Earth Observatory. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
  13. ^ National Weather Service (12 October 2011). "High Flows and Flood History on the Lower Mississippi River Below Red River Landing, LA (1543-Present)". National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office New Orleans/Baton Rouge. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  14. ^ "Obama Signs Tennessee Disaster Declaration". 2011-05-09. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-05-16.
  15. ^ "Rural Louisiana flooded to save New Orleans" (CBS News/Associated Press) May 14, 2011
  16. ^ "Midwest Flooding Crisis: More Rainfall Means More Flooding for Iowa, Minnesota".
  17. ^ Robinson, Zach. "Mississippi River projected to reach record levels after severe storms cause flooding". Retrieved 1 May 2017.