Mississippi mayor tells residents to ‘get out now’ and governor declares state of emergency ahead of floods

·3 min read

The mayor of a Mississippi city has urged residents to “get out now” and the state governor has declared a state of emergency as record-breaking rainfall is expected to cause significant flooding over the coming days.

Mayor of Jackson Chokwe Antar Lumumba said on Sunday that people should leave the state’s biggest city “as soon as possible” as fears grow that the area could be headed for a repeat of flooding seen back in February 2020.

“Unfortunately because we have seen these events as recently as 2020, we have a reference point, and we know the damage that can occur,” he told CNN.

“If we risk the life of one individual, that’s one individual too many.

“Our residents have been inundated with persistent rain over the last few days.”

Mississippi has been hammered by excessive rainfall in recent days as well as the release of water from the 33,000-acre Barnett Reservoir.

The water level of the Pearl River continues to rise and is currently on track to crest at a staggering 36 feet on Monday morning.

If it reaches that level, Governor Tate Reeves said it will flood dozens of streets in the downtown area, causing damage to an unknown number of homes and businesses.

“If predictions prove accurate, the Pearl River is expected to crest on Monday, August 29th, at 36 feet,” he said on Saturday.

The governor declared a state of emergency on Saturday in preparation for the flooding, saying that his administration is “monitoring this situation closely, and actively working to respond as quickly as possible to ongoing developments with flooding”.

A mailbox stands in floodwaters from heavy rains in northeast Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday (AP)
A mailbox stands in floodwaters from heavy rains in northeast Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday (AP)

Thousands of sandbags have been handed out to residents and business owners and the state has been using drones to assess the water levels of the river.

Preparations have also been made to provide refuge for residents who need to evacuate their homes due to the flooding, with the Red Cross setting up a temporary shelter on Friday.

Officials had initially predicted the Pearl River would crest in Jackson at aroun 35.5 feet on Tuesday but revised forecasts forward by around 24 hours.

The Pearl River’s water level is expected to slowly lower again after that.

A flood stage of 26 feet is considered major – a level that is 10 feet lower than the expected crest.

According to the flood warning, dozens of streets in downtown Jackson will flood at 34 feet, while water will be close to entering homes in the northeast of the city at 35.8 feet.

Residents in these areas are all too familiar with the toll of the heavy rainfall after their homes were damaged during the 2020 floods.

Back then, the Pearl River reached its third highest crest on record at 36.7 feet and flooded several neighborhoods in downtown and northeast Jackson.

On Friday, the city of Jackson told residents whose homes were impacted by the 2020 flood to make evacuation plans over the next 48 hours.

One resident in Ridgeland told WAPT that she and her family had to stay in a hotel for five days because of the February 2020 flood and are hoping the flooding isn’t as bad this time round.

“Hopefully it won’t get bad. That’s all we’re praying for,” said Krystal Ferguson.