The 2011 Mississippi River flood, aka, “The Great Flood of 2011”, was one of the most extreme flood events the region had seen in decades and occurred due to a culmination of multiple extreme weather events that had occurred in a sequence over the previous months that only exacerbated the effects of the normal spring flooding and created extreme flood conditions that produced record crest heights for the Mississippi and its tributaries, producing the worst flooding the region had seen since the “Great Flood of 1927”, affecting six states along the Mississippi (Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and most significantly Louisiana). I chose this topic because I am doing a project for another class relating to one of the structures and flooding in the Louisiana levee system, and I have always been interested in that topic, so I wanted to do my case study on these floods so I could learn more about the strength of the structure as well as the levee system as a whole.

NWS Map showing % of normal Precipitation in the first few weeks of the 2011 Mississippi Floods

The 2011 floods in the Mississippi River Valley actively affected the region between March 19th and June 25th, but the primary flooding occurred between Mid-April and Mid-May. To mitigate the effects of the floodwaters, the US Army Corps of Engineers utilized the system of levees and floodways distributed throughout the region that are specifically meant to make floods predictable and somewhat controlled. During this flood, all three spillways in the system were opened to control the flooding in certain cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans, marking the first time ever all three spillways were in use at the same time.

Overall, insurance companies estimated the damage across all 119 counties affected by the flood to be around 2.8 billion dollars, with more than 21,000 homes and businesses and 1.2 million acres of agricultural land directly impacted, with over 43,000 people experiencing the effects. Despite this being the most major flooding event in the past 100 years, the overall loss of life was minimal, with only a few fatalities due to flash flooding during the peak of the storm. And while the levee system did take a major hit during the flood – with all levees damaged and over $800 million in congressional funds needed to repair them – the presence of the intricate and well-planned levee system is estimated to have prevented $62 billion in additional damage in the Mississippi Valley.

Based on the information gathered, it is clear that the disaster management organizations, as well as the people living in the region, are well prepared for floods purely because the Mississippi River Valley has been susceptible to floods for centuries and experiences them every few years. The primary way in which these organizations work to become more prepared for future floods is by drafting reports and hosting meetings that directly address what they did well and what they believe they could have done better during the previous flood. So, while the attitude towards intense preparation and improvement of methods and structures the disaster organizations continue to make over the years is extremely impressive and praiseworthy, unfortunately, this extensive preparation is necessary, just so that another storm does not come in and devastate the region. But, due to extreme flood events occurring much more frequently than ever before, the residents and the organizations of the area are forced to be much more prepared and aware of the dangers than ever.


  1. I found it really interesting to read this summary because it seems like the area had good mitigations in place for flooding. I feel like normally that doesn’t happen, so I enjoyed reading about it. It seems like everyday life just includes flooding in these areas. The levees seemed to do their job instead of create more flooding. While there was obviously still damage it seems like this area has good process for mitigation to floods.

  2. As Catlin mentioned, I was interested to see that the levees worked in this scenario. This is an interesting deviation from what I typically see make the news. I would be curious to see if your research yielded any information on what made the use of this levee system more successful than they have been in other events. I would suspect that levees that were rebuilt and the improvements made after the levee failures of Hurricane Katrina were what increased the success in this instance.

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