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Mississippi flooding: In impoverished Delta, echoes of 1927 disaster

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Waters swamping the Delta, a 200-mile stretch between Memphis, Tenn., and Vicksburg, Miss., will devastate an already-struggling area. Nine of the 11 counties along the river have poverty rates about double the national average of 13.5 percent, according to the US Census Bureau.

A tour of the communities along the Delta, ranging from Alligator, Miss., (population 195) to Greenville (population 35,000), reveals sandbags and closed levee gates, but the mood is more of quiet tension than visible panic.

Walls of local restaurants and inns are lined with historic photographs from the 1927 flood, the most destructive of its kind in US history. Locals refer to it in almost every conversation, but they say that precautions taken in the flood’s wake by the Army Corps of Engineers reassured them that such a disaster could never happen again.

“We never thought it would get this high,” says Milford Hough, standing with his wife atop the Greenville levee. Mr. Hough’s home in Black Bayou is located near the site of the first levee breach in 1927. He says he trusted the Army Corps's predictions about river levels so much that he didn’t bother purchasing flood insurance for his home, built on the river side of the levee. Today, his home has five feet of water inside.

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