Reeves declares emergency ahead of predicted flooding

A state of emergency is in effect in Mississippi as authorities anticipate potentially massive flooding from an earlier-than-expected river flood, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said Saturday.

“We expect the Pearl to crest 36 feet late Sunday or early Monday in the Jackson area about 24 hours earlier than originally expected,” Reeves told a news conference. “If that happens, the streets will be flooded. Businesses will flood. My administration and those of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency are monitoring the situation closely.

The river on Saturday was at 34.63 feet (about 10.5 meters), weather officials said. National Weather Service hydrologist Marty Pope said scattered thunderstorms were expected through Tuesday, “which could increase our precipitation in the southern part of the state.”

“It will be a long-term flooding situation,” he said. “You can expect flooding in the city for at least five to seven days before a significant reduction occurs.”

Reeves said the emergency declaration will be in effect for areas that were affected by severe flooding in 2020 or could be affected by the current event. He said the statement will allow the state to better assist local governments and provide emergency assistance if needed.

“We’re ready,” Reeves said. “Because we are no strangers to severe weather and flooding, it makes us even more ready to respond if needed over the next few days.”

Although no mandatory evacuations were ordered, Reeves and other officials strongly encouraged residents to “get out” if necessary.

The governor acknowledged that it was difficult to determine whether it was necessary to evacuate.

“It’s really hard to imagine the rising waters when you step out onto your porch and see no water today, look up and see the sun. But just because your home isn’t likely to flood doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evacuate. If you are in a higher area, the entry and exit routes may be in lower areas prone to water intake. You must assess and be able to sustain yourself for at least three days or decided to go out.

“I can’t overstate how important it is to act now,” Reeves said. “Fill up now if you’re staying. Pack your bags if you are going. It can help you protect your own life and that of your family.

Stephen McCraney, executive director of MEMA, noted that the 2020 events should be the highlight for residents if they experience flooding that year.

“There is a limited amount of daylight between now and dusk on Sunday to try to prepare you if you plan to go out,” he said.

He and Reeves urged people who were flooded two years ago to let new neighbors know who might not be aware of what could happen.

“Let them know so they can prepare if need be,” he said.

McCraney said consistent storms this month have already affected 45 homes in the state so far, 13 businesses and at least 55 roads in several counties, including Hines, Rankin and Roberson as well as the city of Jackson. He encouraged tourists to avoid inclinations to do so.

“People have 24 hours or less to get themselves, their things, their pets … to get their lives out of harm’s way,” McCraney said. “We need the roads just like the people trying to get out, so stay clear.”

So far, Reeves said, a shelter has been opened for those in need. It is located at the Jackson Police Training Academy and is operated by the American Red Cross.

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