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Pearl River Flooding: Prepare to Evacuate, Officials Tell Jackson Residents

Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said that the increased water flow from Barnett Reservoir to the O.B. Curtis treatment has resulted in water-pressure issues system-wide. Photo courtesy City of Jackson

JACKSON, Miss.—Residents in several areas of Jackson should be prepared to voluntarily evacuate next week when forecasters say the Pearl River will reach 36 feet, flooding several parts of the city. Officials warned that water levels have already risen several inches after days of rainfall and, at a Thursday press conference, warned people to prepare now.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said the anticipated event might be similar to the severe flooding that hit the city in 2020. He noted that many parts of the capital city have already experienced flash flooding due to the increased rainfall in the last few days, and he urged residents to prepare and heed evacuation commands.

“(W)e expect somewhere by Monday until Tuesday (that) many neighborhoods will be impacted,” Lumumba said. “I think it is important that our residents prepare in advance.”

“We don’t want to take for granted that we’ve seen these experiences before,” he added. “We’re calling for voluntary evacuation to take place over the course of this time in the areas that are expected to be affected.”

Lumumba: Pickup Needed Sandbags Now

The last time the Pearl River crested to 36 feet was in February 2020, flooding more than 500 homes across the capital city, submerging entire neighborhoods in Northeast Jackson. That marked the third highest crest in the river’s history; only the severe floods of 1979 and 1983 exceeded it.

Creeks fed from the Pearl River inundated and washed over the city in 2020, demanding the rescue of 16 residents from flood-soaked homes. Currents and eddies from the floodwater’s drainage made numerous streets unnavigable, with fan boats used to extract trapped citizens from their homes.

While the Ross Barnett Reservoir is capable of taking in additional water to alleviate the burden on the Pearl, emergency spillways activate when the water rises high enough, limiting the amount of overflow capacity that the reservoir can hold back.

The flooding woes in the City of Jackson is expected to compound next week as the Pearl River reaches 36 feet. Screencap courtesy WJTV

In a follow-up press release, the City of Jackson explained that the expected flooding is because the Barnett Reservoir will release “water from the spillway to relieve pressure on the reservoir dam. This will cause the Pearl River to rise and is expected to affect some areas of Jackson. “

Lumumba said sandbags are available now for pickup at the Maintenance Supply building at 4225-B Michael Avalon St., between 9 a.m and 5 p.m. and those who cannot get there can call 311. The City is working on providing shelters for people.

“We encourage you to do this now as when we get closer to the expected time of the crest of the river or the potential crest of that river, we know that we will be inundated with people who are trying to get their sandbags last minute,” he said. “And so I want to encourage our residents to do that as soon as possible.”

The City in a press release on Friday, advised residents “to take time now to prepare, pack and develop an evacuation plan in the next 48 hours. All evacuations are voluntary at the moment.”

“Shelter preparations are being made now and will be announced soon,” the release added. “The City of Jackson, along with its Hinds County partners, will continue to update residents of new developments on a day-to-day basis.”

‘Take What You Need for Probably Two Weeks’

National Weather Service Senior Service Hydrologist Marty Pope, who is based in Jackson, said that the rainfall in the last few days is making the Pearl River overflow its banks.

“We’ve actually got anywhere from 5 to 15 inches over the last three days,” he said. “We’re seeing right now about 70,000 cubic feet per second of water is going to be coming into the reservoir, which would give us approximately 36 feet on the Pearl River gauge, and that would be on the Tuesday timeframe.”

Jackson Fire Department Deputy Chief Cleotha Sanders Jr. said that people in the path of the flood should get their emergency preparedness kits ready. “If you have to leave home, go ahead and put together a kit with water, cell phone, battery charger, and things of that nature, your medicine, things for your pets,” he said. “Make sure that if you are in an area where there’s standing water, please do not walk through the water, and please do not drive through the water.”

“We ask that you turn around and don’t drown and make sure that you’re able to live to see another day,” he added.

Officials said that other parts of the state, including Hinds, Rankin, Lawrence and Capiah counties, will be affected.

The National Weather Service’s Jackson Operations Officer Chad Entremont said people might have to prepare to leave their homes for two weeks as they expect the flood waters to recede slowly. “There’s going to be a slow kind of receding; we may still be 34, 33 feet all the way into (next) weekend,” he said. “Take what you need for probably two weeks.”

Experts expect flood waters to affect the following areas of Jackson:

  • Annie Street
  • Beasley Street
  • Beatty & Rankin streets at Silas Brown Street
  • Canterbury Court
  • Canton Club Circle at Sedgewick Drive
  • Canton Club Circle – northeast end
  • City garage area off S. Jefferson Street
  • Cypress Trail
  • Deer Trail
  • Eastover area
  • Foxboro Street
  • Galilee Street
  • Greenwood  Avenue at Hardy Creek
  • Harrow Drive
  • Hinds Street
  • Hudson Street – east end
  • Julienne Street
  • Linde Air Trailer Court
  • Martin & Hinds streets
  • McNuitt Street
  • Meadow Oaks Park Drive
  • Moncure Road
  • Nichols Street
  • Offutt Street
  • Old Brandon Road
  • President Street from South Silas Brown Street – south end
  • Rankin Street
  • River Cove area
  • River Glenn area
  • North River Road
  • Riverwood/Harrow drives
  • Rollingwood at Yucca Drive – south end
  • Rosemary Road east of Terry Road
  • Santa Clara Circle
  • Sedgewick Drive & Canton Club Circle
  • Sidney Street
  • South West Street – Union Planter s
  • South West Street – Randy’s Upholstery parking lot
  • Sproles Street
  • Stokes Robinson Road
  • Westbrook Road – east of Sedgewick Drive
  • Yucca Drive

Nick Judin contributed to this piece. 

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