Flooding in Mississippi
On this page you learn what types of flooding are typical in Louisiana and how do you protect yourself, your family and your home. You will also find out more about significant Mississippi floods. Finally, you'll find links to NWS offices that provide forecast and safety information for Mississippi, as well as links to our partners who play a significant role in keeping you safe.
||Significant Mississippi Floods
Mississippi River Floods of 1927
Dates: April and May 1927
Deaths: 246 flood-related deaths in several states
Impacts: Over 700,000 homeless in several states
Flood inundations: 27,000 square miles in several states
Costs: Property damage was estimated at over $400 million dollars (1927 dollars), equivalent to over $5 billion dollars today across all of the states.
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive flood in U.S. 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 United States. 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 21 when the Mounds Landing levee broke. This levee lay below the junction with the Arkansas River and approximately 12 miles north of Greenville, which flooded the next day. In only 10 days, one million acres of land across the Mississippi Delta Region were immersed under water at least 10 feet deep.
In April 1927, Herbert Hoover, Commerce Secretary, was appointed as the official to lead the rescue and relief efforts. 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.
Flooding from Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi, August-September 2005
Location: Mississippi and Louisiana, along with damages in Alabama, Florida, and inland states
Dates: August and September 2005
Deaths: 238 deaths in Mississippi (mostly due to storm surge flooding)
Injuries: Over 6,000; 700 still missing
Costs: In excess of 160 billion throughout the Gulf Region (private and government) (2005 dollars)
Impacts: Over 15 million people were impacted economically or otherwise. More than a million people in the Gulf region were displaced by the storm. At their peak hurricane relief shelters housed 273,000 people. Later, approximately 114,000 households were housed in FEMA trailers.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 storm with winds of approximately 127 mph near Grand Isle, LA, on August 29, 2005; hurricane force winds and its associated storm surge lasted 17 hours. This began a 2-day path of destruction through Central and East Mississippi. The storm exited northeast Mississippi on the 30. According to Weather Underground, “The highest documented storm surge in the U.S. occurred in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, when Pass Christian, MS, recorded a 27.8 foot storm surge above mean sea level. The highest High Water Mark on record for a U.S. hurricane occurred in Biloxi during Katrina, where a High Water Mark of 34.1 feet above mean sea level was recorded on the outside of the Beau Rivage Casino Lighthouse. The surge was 22 feet high in Biloxi, so the combination of the tide (about 1 foot) and 11-foot waves on top of the storm surge created the 34.1-foot high water mark.”
Rainfall totals of 8 to 15 inches occurred with the storm, in addition to the massive storm surge produced by the hurricane. Storm surge flooding damaged the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast, pushing debris as far north as Interstate 10. Homes, buildings, and businesses that survived Hurricane Camille were lost in Hurricane Katrina, with damages extending from Mobile, AL, westward. As Hurricane Katrina moved inland, a swath of 5 to 8 inches of rain fell along its path. This heavy rain mainly fell across southeast, central and northeast Mississippi over a 6 to 10 hour period. This rainfall caused many county roads to flood for a period of time with many having to be closed. Additionally, several roads had a small section washed out or nearly washed out. These sections of road were located in low lying areas near creeks and bottoms.
Flood Photo Archive: Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Mississippi Storm Surge Records from Weather Underground
Bay St. Louis:
25.0 ft., Hurricane Katrina, 2005
21.7 ft., Hurricane Camille, 1969
15.2 ft., September 1947 Hurricane
27.8 ft., Hurricane Katrina, 2005
22.6 ft., Hurricane Camille, 1969
13.4 ft., September 1947 Hurricane
25.7 ft., Hurricane Katrina, 2005
21.6 ft., Hurricane Camille, 1969
14.0 ft., September 1947 Hurricane
24.5 ft., Hurricane Katrina, 2005
21.0 ft., Hurricane Camille, 1969
14.0 ft., September 1947 Hurricane
22.0 ft., Hurricane Katrina, 2005
19.5 ft., Hurricane Camille, 1969
11.1 ft., September 1947 Hurricane
18.0 ft., Hurricane Katrina, 2005
11.8 ft., Hurricane Camille, 1969
9.0 ft., September 1947 Hurricane
Easter Flood of 1979, April 11-13
Deaths: 9 deaths in Mississippi and Alabama.
Injuries: numerous rescues
Impacts: Total damage estimates provided by Mississippi and Alabama tsate officials placed total damages to crops, roads, bridges, and both public and private buildings in excess of $700 million. In Jackson, 15,000 people were evacuated from their homes and an estimate of damages was tagged at $500 million (1979 dollars).
A wet winter and early spring season set the stage for major flooding in April of 1979. Heavy rains brought flash flooding to portions of northeast and much of central Mississippi from the 11th to the 13th of April, but this was only a prelude to the widespread and record or near record flooding for the remainder of the month.
The large tornado-breeding storm system that severely damaged Wichita Falls, TX, and spread into Oklahoma on the 10th set off heavy rainfall across Mississippi from the 11th to 13th. From 10 to 20 inches of rainfall fell across portions of the Upper Pearl, Tombigbee, Big Black, and Upper Chickasawhay River Basins.
Moderate to major flooding occurred along the Tombigbee River and tributaries above Columbus, MS. Record flooding occurred along the Tombigbee tributaries of the Luxapallila Creek and Noxubee River. The record to near record flooding continued on the Tombigbee into Alabama. Eastern Columbus and Macon were totally inundated by flood waters. Record to near record flooding occurred along the Big Black River and portions of the Upper Chickasawhay.
The most significant damage occurred along the Pearl River System where near record to record flooding occurred all the way to the mouth of the river in Louisiana. Peak discharges approached or exceeded those of the Great Flood of 1874. Flood waters covered residences in northeast Jackson and overtopped a levee near downtown Jackson area allowing water to flood low lying areas in the Central Business District. As the water proceeded to the mouth, evacuations were issued along the river including eastern portions of Slidell, LA.
The Pearl and Leaf River Flood of 1974
Dates: April 12-16, 1974
Deaths: 8 deaths between the Pearl and Pascagoula Basins
Impacts: 6,000 people evacuated from their homes in Forrest County, a total of 9,000 evacuated along the Pascagoula Basin
Flood Inundation: 6 square miles in the city of Hattiesburg, 60,800 acres along Leaf River.
2,000 people evacuated in Jones County in Laurel and surrounding areas; 1,000 evacuated in
Marion County along the Pearl River
Cost: $9,374,600 in damage along Leaf River
The beginning of April 1974 started off wet for southeast Mississippi with an average of an inch of rainfall in the first couple days. From April 12 to the 16, a major storm system dropped heavy rains, from 4 inches up to 20 inches, over the region. Severe flooding occurred as a result. Record and near record stages were set at several sites along the Lower Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers. The flooding at forecast points on the Lower Pearl ranks between the top 2 to 5 all time crests as of February 2014. The Leaf River, a tributary of the Pascagoula River, bore the brunt of the flooding though. Also in the Pascagoula Basin, the Chickasawhay at Shubuta, MS, had its highest crest since the floods of 1919.
Magee, near the headwaters of the Leaf River, received just over 20 inches of rainfall in a 36-hour period, while sites at the mouth of the river received over 6 inches. The Leaf River at Hattiesburg broke its all-time record stage height with 34.03 feet. This record still stands as of January 2014. Tallahala Creek at Laurel had its highest crest since 1919.
Over 6,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Hattiesburg and Forrest County. More than six square miles of Hattiesburg were inundated with flooding, with water 15 feet deep in places.
Hattiesburg Flood February 16-25, 1961
Dates: February 16-25, 1961
Deaths: 3 deaths in Hattiesburg
Impact: residential, commercial, and agricultural losses throughout central and southeast Mississippi
Cost: $6,343,100 (1961 dollars)
A series of three storm systems tracked through the South from February 16-25, dumping extreme amounts of rainfall. Accumulated rainfall totals of up to 18 inches occurred in southeast Louisiana and Mississippi and in central and south Alabama. As a result, extensive flooding occurred throughout central and southeast Mississippi.
Many locations in the Pearl and Pascagoula River Basins approached and broke their all-time record crests. The Leaf River at Hattiesburg crested at 31.53 feet breaking the record at the time. This record was broken in 1974 at 34.03 feet. Hattiesburg received the most flood damage, in part due to its size. Nearly 5,000 people were evacuated from their homes in the city. Black Creek at Brooklyn and the Chickasawhay River at Enterprise both set their highest crests up to that time as well.
Many locations in the Pascagoula Basin reached or exceeded their 50-year floods. In the upper and middle Pearl River Basin, flooding was not as extreme. The Pearl River at Edinburg reached a peak discharge, which qualified for a 14-year flood. Even the Sunflower River at Sunflower in the Delta had a recurrence interval of about 10 years.
Damage was extensive throughout the state. Jackson, Hattiesburg and Petal received the greatest damage. Roadways and railways, residential and commercial property, as well as agricultural lands and livestock, were all destroyed. County roads had more damage than State Highways. Numerous winter crops were destroyed. Livestock drowned. Houses, buildings, fences, and other farm property were damaged as well. Other losses included the scouring of the land and leaching of fertilizer from the soil.
Flash flooding is a rapid and extreme flow of high water into a normally dry area, or a rapid water level rise in a stream or creek above a predetermined flood level, beginning within six hours of the causative event (i.e., intense rainfall, dam failure, ice jam). More information...
River flooding occurs when river levels rise and overflow their banks or the edges of their main channel and inundate areas that are normally dry. More information...
Tropical Systems and Coastal Flooding
At any time of year, a storm from over the ocean can bring heavy precipitation to the U.S. coasts. Whether such a storm is tropical or not, prolonged periods of heavy precipitation can cause flooding in coastal areas, as well as further inland as the storm moves on shore.More information...
A back-up of water into surrounding areas can occur when a river or stream is blocked by a build-up of ice or other debris. Debris Jam: A back-up of water into surrounding areas can occur when a river or stream is blocked by a build-up of debris. More information...
Dam Breaks/Levee Failure
A break or failure can occur with little to no warning. Most often they are caused by water overtopping the structure, excessive seepage through the surrounding ground, or a structural failure. More information...
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