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Living Memories Of The Great Flood Of 1927


The worst flooding along the Mississippi River in decades has many people looking back to the Great Flood of 1927. It swept over seven states and displaced 700,000 people - the most destructive river flood in U.S. history. The devastation spurred the building of the world's longest system of levees, and it left a lasting impression on the people who lived through it.

M: My name is Samuel Edgar Lee Jr.

HANSEN: Lee was born near the town of Winnsboro, Louisiana, on November 15, 1917.

M: Which made me nine years old at the time of the flood, and I have a very vivid memory of it.

HANSEN: Lee now lives on the same ridge where his childhood home stood and remembers the flood waters rising.

M: It came in a hurry when it came. And the water came up to the west eave of our house.

HANSEN: Mr. Lee says some of his neighbors lost their homes. He was on slightly higher ground, so his family was able to stay put. But they could row a boat into town, occasionally, and marvel at the eerie transformation of streets into canals.

M: Looking at the water, you'd see a black ball or something traveling under the surface of the water and what that was, was a mass of small catfish, apparently just hatched out or something, and they just swam around in a mass. We did some fishing and you could not fish without catching some of those things. The water was full of them.

HANSEN: Lee warns that people who face possible flooding today shouldn't be too quick to panic but realize how fast the water can come.

M: If it comes like it did in '27, they have reason to be sure to have access to something somewhere that they can get to stay while it's here.

HANSEN: Samuel Edgar Lee Jr. of Louisiana, remembering the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.