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JACKSON, Miss. – Weeks of heavy rain have inundated a large portion of the southern U.S., bringing near-record flooding to portions of Mississippi and Tennessee.
In Jackson, Mississippi, hundreds of residents either watched their homes flood over the weekend or worried their residence would soon be drenched as the Pearl River crested Monday at 36.8 feet, its third-highest level ever recorded – behind only 1979 and 1983.
Calling the Jackson floods "historic" and "unprecedented," Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said in a Sunday press conference that "we do not anticipate this situation to end anytime soon. It will be days before we are out of the woods and the waters recede."
Reeves said at a news conference Monday that there were no reports of flood-related injuries and thanked the people of Mississippi for heeding evacuation orders. Only 16 search and rescue missions were necessary, he said, even though as many as 1,000 homes were flooded.
The governor also warned the hundreds of evacuees in the Jackson area not to rush back home until they got the all clear.
Reeves had declared a state of emergency Saturday because of the floods.
The flooding is the result of a stubbornly damp weather pattern: February has seen "a constant stream of wet storms rolling across the Deep South," said AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Walker, who called it a "crazy month" for the amount of rain that's fallen across the region.
More wet weather is on the way: Rain showers were forecast to develop Monday night over the Mississippi River Valley, further saturating an already soggy South, the Weather Channel said.
The National Weather Service said that this entire area is quite soaked and any additional rainfall may lead to more runoff issues and additional flooding.
Residents began filling sandbags and preparing their homes, businesses and churches for the flooding last week after multiple days of heavy rain, AccuWeather said.
Jackson resident Mark Wakefield knows what it takes to rebuild after flooding: His in-laws’ home in Jackson has flooded four times before. The worst was 1979 when the house was 8 feet underwater. The home has flooded again, he said, and this time they might not come back.
“It’s no fun,” Wakefield said. “Once the water’s in the house we’re looking at months of cleanup and reconstruction. It’s nothing life-threatening to us, we’re careful enough ... but it’s just extremely frustrating and disgusting to have to go through this.”
Nearly 2,400 structures across the three Mississippi counties closest to the Pearl River and its Barnett Reservoir – Hinds, Rankin and Madison – could get water indoors or be surrounded by floods, said Malary White of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
While the focus now is on the Jackson area, the heavy rains and flooding have affected a much larger swath of the state. State emergency management officials said they had received preliminary damage reports from 11 counties connected with the severe weather that hit the state starting Feb. 10.
In Tennessee, February’s rains have been “400% of normal, and we have more coming in this week," Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Jim Hopson said. "It’s kind of a never-ending battle.
“Mother Nature is really the one in charge – we simply try to manage what Mother Nature gives us to minimize the impacts along the 652-mile Tennessee River and its thousands of miles of tributaries and streams,” he said.
The southern flooding could be a precursor to another disastrous year for flooding, especially in the central U.S.
In fact, there are troubling signs spring 2020 could bring a repeat of widespread flooding in the nation's midsection somewhat reminiscent of last year's massive event, the Weather Channel warned.
Long-range flood forecasts issued last week by the National Weather Service said there is an above-average chance of widespread flooding this spring along stretches of the Mississippi River, Missouri River, Red River and other tributaries in the northern and central U.S.
Flooding last year in the Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas River basins were responsible for 12 deaths and an estimated $20 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mississippi flooding: 'Historic' flooding swamps southern USA