The Mississippi River level reached 40 feet Friday and a historic sign was raised for the occasion.
It was a first for former Shelby County Historian Jimmy Ogle, who’s in charge of changing the Mississippi River stage sign that sits on the Bluff near Vance Park.
“We went from 39 feet to 40 feet and over 40 for the first time since 2011, so I was just really proud about going to 40 and putting the number four up there,” Ogle said.
The sign has been on the bluff since the 1930’s and is one of only three on the Mississippi River.
It was used back in the day to let mariners, tow boat operators and barges know how high the sea levels are on the Mississippi as they pass through Memphis.
“In today’s technology with satellite technology and cell phones and all that, it’s out dated. But you can’t just let history like this go away because of computers and everything,” Ogle said.
To mark the rare event, Ogle gave WMC a tour of history.
He showed us the river gauge on the cobblestones and just how high waters rose on the old iron river gauge on the pedestrian bridge near Beale, during the historic flooding of 2011.
“Again back on May 10, 11 and 12 of 2011, we had it 48 at that time. It was the second all time high in our history,” Ogle said.
The highest reading ever recorded on the gauge was 48.7 feet in 1937.
As forecasters brace for the Mississippi River to crest next week, which could be its fourth highest level since historians started keeping records, Ogle hopes we take in the significance.
“This is the tenth time we’ve ever been over 40 feet here on the local river gauge. Tenth in the recorded history the last 80 years,” Ogle said.