In his classic Delta autobiography, Lanterns On the Levee, William Alexander Percy wrote, “With us, when you speak of ‘the river,’ though there be many, you mean always the same one, the great river, the shifting, unappeasable god of the country, feared and loved … the Mississippi.”
The Mississippi River created this land we call the Mississippi Delta. It is why I live here today, why my family came here from Virginia in 1872.
However, the Mississippi can wreak havoc very quickly and in the Spring of 2011, it did, causing one of the worst flooding situations this country has ever seen. I should know, my family and I lost two cabins in our hunting club. from the flood.
After 18 months, after a long time of false starts in the rebuilding process, last week my family and I finally moved back into one of our small cabins from the aftermath of the Mississippi River flood that took place here in Bolivar County in May of 2011. Fortunately, neither cabin was our primary residence, unlike so many who did lose their primary residence during the massive flooding in 2011.
By all accounts, the Mississippi River Flood of 2011 was a historic event. It is comparable to the devastating Flood of 1927 that occurred when the levee broke at Mounds Landing north of Greenville in Bolivar County.
To capture this epic event, a year ago, we at Coopwood Publishing Group published a pictorial coffee table book chronicling these events in full-color. Pulling this project together was a monumental task, as our staff collected and sorted through about 3,000 photos in order to select the 200 that are included in the book. Titled, The Mississippi Delta Flood of 2011, this coffee table book was a huge success, and we still sell a few copies a month.
The story of this flood started in April of 2011, when two major storm systems deposited record levels of rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed up north. Many would be surprised to know that 41 percent of this nation’s water passes right by the most western portion of the Mississippi Delta via the river.
During the 2011 Flood, thousands of homes up and down the river were evacuated, including more than 1,300 in Memphis and more than 24,500 in Louisiana and Mississippi. Up to 13 percent of U.S. petroleum refinery output was disrupted by flood levels in 2011. In Tunica County, nine casinos were closed. Eighteen months later, an actual dollar figure of the losses created by this flood has still not been determined.
The Mississippi River Flood of 2011 set new record water level stages at Vicksburg and Natchez, and it also reached record levels at Greenville and Memphis. Provisional estimates by the USGS indicated that the peak streamflow at Vicksburg exceeded both the estimated peak streamflow of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, and the measured peak streamflow of the 1937 flood.
It has taken us 18 months to get back in order. However, while this has been a long time in the making, many still do not have homes, cabins, and have not replaced their damaged property from the 2011 flood.
We are thankful we are back in our small cabin and safe in our peaceful hide-away in the woods near the Mississippi River.
But, as I wrote in our coffee table book, The Mississippi Delta Flood of 2011, “In the Delta, we don’t let down our guard, and the Mississippi, to quote the poet T.S. Elliot, is always ‘watching and waiting.’”
The Great Mississippi River Flood of 2011
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