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The Mississippi Flood - Vernon Dalhart (As Al Craver) (Columbia)

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Published on May 15, 2011

Recorded May 2, 1927. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States.

The flood began when heavy rains pounded the central basin of the Mississippi in the summer of 1926. By September, the Mississippi's tributaries in Kansas and Iowa were swollen to capacity. On New Year's Day of 1927, the Cumberland River at Nashville topped levees at 56.2 feet (17 m), a level that remains a record to this day, even exceeding the devastating 2010 floods.

Flooding overtook the levees causing the Mounds Landing to break with more than double the water volume of Niagara Falls. The Mississippi River broke out of its levee system in 145 places and flooded 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2). This water flooded an area 80 km (50 miles) wide and more than 160 km (100 miles) long. The area was inundated up to a depth of 30 feet (10 m). The flood caused over $400 million in damages and killed 246 people in seven states.

The flood affected Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Arkansas was hardest hit, with 14% of its territory covered by floodwaters. By May 1927, the Mississippi River below Memphis, Tennessee, reached a width of 60 miles (97 km).

The flood resulted in a great cultural output as well, inspiring a great deal of folklore and folk music. Charlie Patton, Bessie Smith, Barbecue Bob, and many other blues musicians wrote songs about the flood. Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie's "When the Levee Breaks" was reworked by Led Zeppelin, and became one of that group's most famous songs. William Faulkner's short story "Old Man" (in the book If I Forget Thee Jerusalem) was about a prison break from Mississippi's Parchman Penitentiary during the flood.

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