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Jackson mayor urges residents to 'get out now' as Mississippi braces for river flooding after record rainfall

Chokwe Antar Lumumba said it's possible for 100 to 150 homes to be affected in floods from the Pearl River.

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," Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a news conference Saturday morning.

He said it’s possible for 100 to 150 homes to be affected 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.

Police officers observe the water release from the Ross Barnett Reservoir Spillway onto the Pearl River in Rankin County, Miss., on Sunday.
Police officers observe the water release from the Ross Barnett Reservoir Spillway onto the Pearl River in Rankin County, Miss., on Sunday. Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency Saturday in anticipation of the Pearl River flooding. It was forecast to crest at 35.5 feet Monday morning, 7 feet above flood stage, the National Weather Service office in Jackson said.

By 9 a.m. Monday, the weather service said the river is forecast “to remain steady” at near 35.37 feet, just under the major flood stage level of 36 feet, then will slowly fall by evening.

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.

Flooding at the Peach Tree Village nursing home in Brandon, Miss., after a morning of torrential rains on Wednesday.
Flooding at the Peach Tree Village nursing home in Brandon, Miss., after a morning of torrential rains on Wednesday. Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Some areas got 14 inches of rain in a 72-hour time frame 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.

Rain moving through the Jackson area is possible Monday, further impacting the already-saturated ground. 

City officials warned of the Pearl River flooding Friday, saying the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir had to release water to relieve pressure on the dam. The 33,000-acre lake supplies water 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 was discharging water from the lake at 60,000 cubic feet per second for at least 24 hours to reduce the water levels. Later on Monday, the district said it decreased the discharge to 45,000 cubic feet per second and will reduce flow in the coming days. 

“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 affected hundreds of homes.