Mississippi is a wonderful place to live. There’s no question about that but no matter how awesome our state is bad stuff is bound to happen from time to time. Over the years, Mississippi has seen its fair share of disasters but if there’s one thing we’ve learned through it all it’s that Mississippi and its residents are resilient. Need proof? Just check out the list below for 9 horrific tragedies the state has overcome.
1. Illinois Central Railroad Train Wreck
Taking place in Vaughan in 1900, this is the train wreck in which Engineer Casey Jones lost his life. The trip from Memphis to Canton seemed to be doomed from the start as a number of things had went wrong, including leaving the station about an hour and a half late. Known for being punctual, Jones was intent on making up as much time as he could. By the time the train pulled into Vaughan it was only a couple of minutes behind schedule – which made it seem as if things were looking up but unfortunately that was not the case. Another train was still on the tracks as Jones arrived, causing his train to collide with the other. Moments before impact, Jones instructed his fireman, Sim Webb, to jump from the train. Webb did just that, and, because of such, survived the crash along with all the other passengers. Sadly, Jones was pronounced dead at the scene.
2. Rhythm Night Club Fire
Also referred to as “The Natchez Dance Hall Holocaust,” this disaster took place in April of 1940. The club was packed on the night of the fire with attendees including bandleader Walter Barnes and his band. The fire, believed to be caused by a discarded match or cigarette, quickly engulfed the building. Patrons tried to exit but with all the windows locked there was only one way out. Frantic guests stormed the only exit but with everyone trying to leave at once, it quickly became blocked. In an effort to calm the crowd, Walter Barnes continued to play music and, because of such, was hailed a hero. With over 200 victims, this was one of the worst fires in the history of the United States.
3. New Year’s Eve Snowstorm
In December of 1963, several southern states experienced something rare – a snowstorm. Due to the storm, major highways out of Jackson were icy and impassable. U.S. 61, which runs from Vicksburg to Memphis, was a solid sheet of ice and numerous power lines and trees were downed. Several parts of the state saw over a foot a snow, with Meridian reportedly getting a whopping 15 inches!
4. 1979 Easter Flood
In April of 1979, much of central Mississippi experienced severe thunderstorms that continued for about 36 hours and caused some areas to receive as much as 20 inches of rain. On Friday the 13th, the rain finally stopped but as the date suggests, the bad luck was just beginning. The massive flooding forced about 17,000 people from their homes with damage totaling approximately $500 million!
5. Hurricane Camille
Pretty much everyone has heard of Hurricane Camille, but if you live in Mississippi then you definitely know about it. The powerful category 5 storm struck the area in August of 1969, hitting Mississippi’s Gulf Coast in the early morning hours. Reaching wind speeds estimated at over 200 mph, the storm was frightening to say the least. After all was said and done, Hurricane Camille claimed more than 200 victims and caused over $1 billion in damages (that’s a little over $9 million in today’s money).
6. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927
Often referred to as “the greatest flood in history,” the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was several months in the making. During the end 1926 and the beginning of 1927, record rainfall caused the Mississippi River to overflow onto the banks in several areas. By April of 1927, the levee at Mounds Landing gave way causing the flooding river to flow with the force of Niagara Falls. After all was said and done, more than 23,000 square miles of land flooded, hundreds of thousands of people were left without homes and over 200 people had lost their lives.
7. Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878
During this time period, trade was booming due to the railroads becoming more widely used as a means of transportation which allowed for people – and disease - to travel more easily. And that’s just what happened. By the summer of 1878, a yellow fever epidemic viciously spread across much of the United States with the southeastern part of the country being severely affected. At the time, not much was known about the viral infection, which was also known as “yellow jack” or “black vomit.” In 1881, after much research, it was learned that mosquitoes were the primary transmitters of the disease. All in all, yellow fever claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people.
8. The 2013 Tornadoes in Hattiesburg
In February of 2013, a total of eight tornadoes touched down in Mississippi and Alabama. One of these was an extremely large, violent multiple-vortex wedge tornado with winds up to 170 mph. This one tornado in particular caused extensive damage to the Hattiesburg and Petal areas. Several campuses, including the University of Southern Mississippi, suffered structural damages in addition to widespread damage across four counties. Due to the severity of the storm, Mississippi was declared a federal disaster area by President Barack Obama.
9. Hurricane Katrina
Many remember the August 2005 storm as if it were yesterday. One of the deadliest storms in the history of the United States, Hurricane Katrina claimed over 1,800 lives. Initially, Katrina was viewed as just another hurricane. She passed over Florida and weakened to a tropical storm allowing for many to feel a sense of relief. The relief was short lived, however, because after Katrina was over water again she gained strength – a lot of it and quickly. By the time she made landfall, Hurricane Katrina was a deadly storm with winds up to 175 mph.
Did you personally experience one of these disasters or have a story about one, on or off the list? Share your comments/pictures below!