Flooding less severe than expected in Mississippi capital

·3 min read

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A swollen Pearl River flooded streets and at least one home in Mississippi's capital city Monday, days after storms dumped heavy rain, but water levels were starting to recede.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the water did not rise as high as expected. Earlier projections showed about 100 to 150 buildings in the Jackson area faced the possibility of flooding.

“We thank the Lord most of all for sparing so many of our residents," Lumumba said during a news conference with emergency officials.

The National Weather Service said the Pearl River had crested at about 35.4 feet (10.8 meters). That is short of the major flood stage level of 36 feet (10.97 meters).

Some Jackson residents started moving furniture and appliances out of their homes late last week, and others stocked up on sandbags.

Two years ago, torrential rain caused the Pearl River to reach 36.7 feet (11.2 meters) and Jackson homes in the hardest-hit neighborhoods were filled with dirty, snake-infested floodwaters.

Suzannah Thames owns a three-bedroom rental home in northeast Jackson that flooded with about 3 feet (0.9 meter) of water in 2020. Thames hired a crew to move appliances, furniture and other belongings out of the home Friday. She said Monday that the home flooded with about 3 to 4 inches inches (7.6 to 10.2 centimeters) of water late Sunday.

“I thought it was going to be a lot worse,” Thames said. “I feel very fortunate. I feel very blessed.”

Andre Warner, 54, said Monday that his family had put all their furniture up on cinderblocks inside their home to prepare for possible flooding in another northeast Jackson neighborhood.

Warner said the family had to leave home for two weeks during the 2020 flood. Water did not enter their house then, but electricity was off in their neighborhood because other homes were inundated.

“We had to wait for it to drain and dry out for them to cut the grid back on,” Warner said.

Jackson has had problems for years with the quality of its drinking water. The city has been under a boil-water notice since late July because tests found a cloudy quality to the water that could lead to health problems.

Lumumba said Monday that flooding has created additional problems at a water-treatment plant, causing low water pressure that could last a few days.

“What I liken it to is if you were drinking out of a Styrofoam cup, someone puts a hole in the bottom of it, you're steady trying to fill it while it's steady running out at the bottom,” Lumumba said.

Legislative leaders reacted with alarm to Jackson's latest water system problems.

“We have grave concerns for citizens’ health and safety,” Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said in a statement Monday, suggesting the state take a role in trying to solve the issue.

The Republican House speaker, Philip Gunn, said he has been contacted by hospitals, businesses and schools “pleading that something be done to address the water crisis in Jackson.”

A bridge crossing the Pearl River near downtown Jackson was closed because of high water. Trees were partly submerged and power lines shook in the strong current Monday. Soccer fields in northeast Jackson were covered with several inches of water, where geese floated. In nearby neighborhoods, some vehicles were partially submerged.

The Mississippi flooding was less severe than flooding that caused death and destruction in Kentucky last month. Those floods left at least 39 dead and robbed thousands of families of all of their possessions. Nearly a month later, residents are wrestling with whether to rebuild at the place they call home or to start over somewhere else.

Emily Wagster Pettus And Michael Goldberg, The Associated Press