The mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, is urging locals to “get out now” after the state was battered with record rainfall and the Pearl River swelled to devastating levels.
“If you are capable of getting out now, get out now,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a news conference Saturday morning.
He said it’s possible for 100 to 150 homes to be impacted in floods from the Pearl River and warned locals to head for higher ground or go to city shelters.
“Get out as soon as possible to prevent any incident or challenge with people trying to leave the area all at once or any concern over whether the river crests sooner than then you may anticipate or our projection,” he added.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency Saturday in anticipation of the Pearl River flooding, now forecast to crest at 35.5 feet Monday morning, the National Weather Service office in Jackson said.
The state deployed 126,000 sandbags, and search and rescue teams are on standby to respond to local emergency manager requests. Drones are also in the air to assess the water levels along the Pearl River.
Mississippi has been grappling with flash flooding since Aug. 22. So far, 42 homes, nine businesses, five farms and 43 public roads have been reported as damaged, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said in its initial assessment.
Some areas got 14 inches of rain in a 72-hour timeframe as the state saw record rainfall, the agency said. One person in Wilkinson County was injured due to the severe weather, but the flooding event is far from over.
City officials warned of the Pearl River flooding on Friday, saying the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir had to release water to relieve pressure on the dam. The 33,000-acre lake supplies the water supply for Jackson.
The Barnett Reservoir inflows crested Sunday, standing at 298.63 feet above mean sea level. The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District said it’ll discharge water from the lake at 60,000 cubic feet per second for at least 24 hours to reduce the water levels.
“Residents in low-lying areas should remain vigilant and stay prepared. This high water event is predicted to last 7 to 10 days,” the water supply district said.
Some schools will shift to virtual learning Monday and Tuesday due to “ongoing low water pressure” and the threat of flooding from the Pearl River, Jackson Public Schools said.
The severe weather comes two years after Mississippi experienced unprecedented flooding in February 2020 that impacted hundreds of homes.