LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The month of April marks the anniversary of the Great Flood of 1927, which ended up being one of the most destructive and costly floods in Arkansas history, prior to the flooding of the Arkansas River in 2019.
At the time, the Great Flood of 1927 was the most destructive and costly flood in Arkansas history and one of the worst in the nation.
Major flooding of the Arkansas, Mississippi and White Rivers impacted 36 of the state’s 75 counties – that’s almost half the state!
How it happened: Snow melt in the plains caused the Mississippi River to rise in early 1927. When flood water traveled to Arkansas, the state was already dealing with ongoing extensive rainfall throughout the month of April. High water along with overly saturated soil led to a devastating situation.
On April 20, 1927, the city of Little Rock recorded just over eight inches of rain. Meanwhile, in the community of Story, AR located in Montgomery County, a total of 23.8 inches of rain was recorded in the month of April. This number still remains the state record for highest monthly rainfall in the month of April.
With ample rain adding to the rushing flood water down the Arkansas and other rivers, levees did not hold up.
According to the National Weather Service, the following rivers recorded record crests:
- The Kings River at Berryville crested at 38 feet on April 14, 1927.
- The Cache River at Patterson crested at 16 feet.
- The Arkansas River at Morrilton crested at 42 feet on April 19, 1927.
- The Arkansas River at Little Rock reached 33 feet on April 20, 1927 (at the time, this was the highest level since June of 1833 when the river crested at 34.6 feet).
- The Arkansas River at Pine Bluff crested at 55.2 feet on April 21, 1927.
- The Mississippi River crested at 59.2 feet at Arkansas City.
- The White River crested at 43.3 feet at Clarendon.
Note: The Arkansas River Flooding of 2019 shattered the records from 1927 at Morrilton and Pine Bluff. The Arkansas River at Morrilton recorded a crest of 43.03 feet on June 4, 2019. The Arkansas River at Pine Bluff recorded a crest of 50.86 feet on June 6, 2019.
Flooding lasted many months, through much of summer 1927. In fact, Arkansas City was under water for almost half a year, April – August.
Arkansas suffered the worst of any other state in the Mississippi River Valley both on a monetary and humanity level. Over 100 people lost their lives from the floods. The state itself sustained about $1 billion in losses (not corrected for inflation).
The entire event costed the country $1 billion. This may not seem like much now, but in 1927, $1 billion was about one third of the nation’s federal budget.