The Memphis Flood of 1927



The past few weeks have certainly been nerve-wracking times. First, we endured terrible thunderstorms, with rain and hail and straight-line winds that toppled giant old trees — sometimes onto houses, with devastating results. Now we watch anxiously as the river and creeks rise and begin to overflow their banks. Many homes in the county have already been damaged by floodwaters, and even the Memphis in May events are in peril.

I searched through the Lauderdale Library to see if I had photographs in our collection from the terrible floods of the 1920s and 1930s, before flood control measures helped reduce — but not entirely eliminate — the danger.

All I found was this one — an old snapshot from 1927. Based on a scribbled note on the back, it supposedly shows North Second Street at the old Wolf River Bridge. I certainly hope the people in those cars were careful as they used this rickety bridge to cross the swollen river. Flood waters are often deeper, and have much stronger currents, than they look on the surface.

Let's cross our fingers and hope Mother Nature soon gives us a much-needed break. What's next — a meteorite shower?

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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