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Kids evacuated from day care, residents urged to seek shelter as Mississippi hit with record rainfall and flooding

Five million people along the Gulf Coast, from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle, were under flood watch through at least Thursday night.

Residents of Mississippi and a huge swath of the Gulf Coast, from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle, took shelter from downpours and floods Thursday while bracing for more rain.

Five million residents were under flood watches through at least Thursday night, as portions of central and southern Mississippi took the brunt of this historic rainfall.

The Mississippi floods led to some of this severe weather event’s most poignant images, as Rankin County Sheriff’s deputies carefully hoisted toddlers from the Railroad Day Care Center on to trucks and buses, evacuating them from their water-logged building.

There were 114 children and 15 employees who had to be evacuated from that day care center, officials said.

Rankin County Sheriff’s Capt. Paul Holley, who drove some children to safety, said he was heartened by the community effort Wednesday to help those kids and their caretakers.

"For what this job can be, the heat that it can bring on you, everything is worth it in that moment," Holley said Thursday.

Children are evacuated from Railroad Day Care Center
Children are evacuated Wednesday from Railroad Day Care Center in Florence, Miss.WLBT

Elsewhere in Mississippi, Jackson had 5.05 inches of rainfall Wednesday, the most of any Aug. 24 in recorded history, as more than 11.57 inches have now fallen on the state capital this month.

It’s already the wettest August in Jackson history, with nearly a week still to go.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba asked residents near the Pearl River to evacuate or at least be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

"I think that it's important for our residents to be prepared in advance," he told reporters on Thursday.

"If we are advising that you are in a flood-prone area or in an at-risk area ... please heed that advice. We are calling for voluntary evacuation to take place over the course of this time, in the areas that we expect to be affected."

Children are evacuated from Railroad Day Care Center
Children are evacuated Wednesday from Railroad Day Care Center in Florence, Miss.WLBT

The National Weather Service in Jackson warned residents living near the Chunky, Chickasawhay, Big Black and Peal Rivers and Tallahala Creek to be ready for those waterways to crest Thursday night or Friday morning.

While some rain let up on Thursday, days of downpours have left grounds highly saturated, so any additional water could still trigger disastrous floods.

"We were grateful that it wasn't worse than what it was (on Wednesday), and we're also getting ready for some more flooding to come (on Friday)," Capt. Holley said.

"Everybody's just getting all the equipment back together to possibly do it all again (on Friday)."

Gulf Coast residents of Baton Rouge, Mobile, Montgomery and Jackson in Alabama, and Panama City and Pensacola in Florida were all bracing for 1 to 3 inches more rain on Friday.

This massive front moving through the coastal South is associated with the same system that dropped buckets on North Texas this week. A ride-hail driver, who was on the phone with her husband and racing to get home, was swept away by flood waters and killed in Mesquite on Monday.