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Here Comes …. The River

Since we’ll all be watching the river as well as the skies in the next week or so. Here are some standards to consider courtesy of the National Weather Service Memphis bureau.

The record crest of the Mississippi River at Memphis was 48.7 feet on the river gauge on Feb. 10, 1937. Second place honors go to the flood of 1927 with 45.8 feet on April 23, 1927.

The two floods were unprecedented events not only in the heights the river reached but in the impact over several states displacing large numbers of people just before and during The Depression. Parts of Memphis experienced flooding but the city was also higher ground for the flood refugees.

Those in Memphis could hardly take solace in the presence of higher ground.

I had always wondered why my father was a little bit older when he graduated from Humes High School in the 1930s. His yearbook turned up the answer. It noted that students at Humes and other Memphis City Schools of the day lost part of a school year to the flooding of 1937 as they went to work with the adults in the flood efforts. The same must have been true for MCS students during the 1927 floods.

If the 45 foot crest forecast at Memphis on May 10 holds true, it will be the third highest river crest at Memphis – in the company of the 1937 and 1927 floods.

In our story in The Daily News for Tuesday, Memphis in May spokeswoman Diane Hampton recalled the river being the subject of some concern in 2002 but being nowhere near as the 45 foot high crest forecast for next week. In 2002, the river, during May reached a crest of 38.7 feet at Memphis.

The hard rains Monday added some urgency to a situation those who get paid to watch the Mississippi River were already concerned about.

Our story notes that while the Beale Street Music Festival is safe, the electrical bunkers near the rocks in Tom Lee Park will probably be moved at some point in anticipation of the river at Memphis cresting sometime between the last note of the festival and the first hammering of boards for the barbecue contest.

The NWS also includes some helpful but troubling milestones to measure the rising river by.

At 48 feet, it notes, Riverside Drive and Tom Lee Park flood. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site differs on this putting the mark for that at 49 feet. The Corps also says at 56 feet, homes are in danger of flooding on Mud Island. That would be far above the 1937 all time record, however.

If the river reaches 45 feet as forecast, it will specifically mean extensive backwater flooding along the Wolf and Loosahatchie Rivers in Frayser and northern Shelby County. And that level of water would go over the lowest dike around the ash settling ponds at the Alan Steam Plant.

At Monday evening’s river stage of 32.66 feet, there is some spot flooding of access roads to fields in southwest Shelby County. Joe Royer, the founder of the Outdoors Inc. Canoe & Kayak Race confirms the Mud Island boat ramp at the mouth of the Wolf River is well underwater.

Across the river, a quick glance to the west confirms much of the farmland west of Memphis is under water. Dacus Lake Road, north of I-40, should be flooded.

We’ll continue to update the river forecasts and readings throughout what could be a historic flood on par with the Mississippi River floods in 1937 and 1927.

Look for our updates on Twitter @memphisdaily.


  1. Wintermute says:

    And here all these years I thought it was the Allen Steam Plant.