Ten years later, Memphis and Mid-South look back at the flood of 2011

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s almost hard to imagine that 10 years ago, Mid-Southerners were trying to cope with what was called the flood of the century.

Homeowners braced as waters inched up nearby. Some had to be rescued by boats and in some cases, 10 years later, they haven’t fully recovered.

For Memphis and Mid-South homeowners like Ricky Hunt, the flood of 2011 left behind scars and is still felt today.

“During that time I had to move with my mother. It took me about a year to get back in my house. As you can see right now, I’m still working on it,” Hunt said.

“Our market has declined over the years ever since the flood,” he said. “We’ve never fully recovered. Today we operate with three less casinos.”

Webster Franklin, the president and CEO of the Tunica Convention & visitors bureau

At that time, Tunica County, Mississippi was known for its nine casinos with non-stop gaming action.

“You would drive around in the middle of the flood and it was like a ghost town,” remembered Webster Franklin, the president and CEO of the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau. He said the flooding temporarily shut down the casinos and the economy.

“At the time we just had under 10,000 employees that weren’t coming to work at the casinos. We had about 5,000 hotels rooms that were empty,” Franklin said.   

The casinos are back open and welcoming visitors, but the impact of the flooding is still felt today.  

“Our market has declined over the years ever since the flood,” he said. “We’ve never fully recovered. Today we operate with three less casinos.”

The Mississippi River rose to historic levels, a crest shy of reaching the projected 48 feet at Memphis.

WREG Chief Weather Expert Tim Simpson said it was the second highest level that we had in Memphis and the Mississippi River since 1937. Simpson, who is a pilot, recalls getting a birds-eye view of the flooding from a helicopter.

“I remember the extensive flooding here in the Frayser area, Riverside Drive and Beale Street completely underwater. Some of these areas, even along Highway 51 in Dyersburg, had incredible flooding,” he said.

There was also severe flooding in West Memphis, Arkansas.

“We suffered damaged when it came to our drainage and our city flushing water outside the city,” Mayor Marco McLendon said.

The mayor said West Memphis recently approved a $30 million bond to improve its wastewater and drainage system in hopes of avoiding another flood of the century.

“We learned from the flood, it’s best to be prepared for another,” McLendon said. “Hopefully another one won’t come back anytime soon.”

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