Flood Threat Continues as Mississippi's Pearl River Crests

The Pearl River crested at nearly 36 feet (11 meters) Monday morning.

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The Ross Barnett Reservoir spillway is releasing a controlled amount of flood water into the Pearl River
The Ross Barnett Reservoir spillway is releasing a controlled amount of flood water into the Pearl River
Image: Rogelio V. Solis (AP)

Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is urging residents to take evacuation orders seriously following heavy rainfall. The Pearl River continues to see intense flooding as it reached a crest nearly 8 feet (2.5 meters) above its flood stage.

Jackson is currently the epicenter of some extreme flooding as the Pearl River rose to dangerous levels over the weekend. In a media briefing on Saturday, the city’s mayor said that the river was expected to crest on August 29—24 hours earlier than anticipated. According to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, those estimates were correct, as the Pearl River’s height sat at 35.37 feet (10.7 meters) at 10 a.m CDT on August 29. For reference, the Pearl River’s flood stage—the height a river can reach before inundating local areas—in Jackson, Mississippi is 28 feet according to the National Weather Service.

“If you are capable of getting out now, get out now,” Lumumba said during the press conference. “These are all projections, we’re trying to give you this information to the best of our ability to pinpoint these timelines.”

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Thomas Winesett from the Jackson National Weather Service explained to Gizmodo on the phone that the flooding was caused by heavy precipitation early last week. Winesett estimates that 356 billion gallons of water fell into the Pearl River Basin between Monday, August 22 and Wednesday, August 24. That water then flowed into the Ross Barnett Reservoir, northeast of Jackson, with inflow hitting a peak yesterday. Water was flowing out of the reservoir at 60,000 cubic feet per second over the weekend, but local officials have dropped the outflow to 45,000 cubic feet per second as of Monday morning. According to Winesett, the Pearl River is forecasted to fall below its flood stage on Thursday night or Friday morning.

The flooding in Jackson adds to the recent list of flooding events that have plagued the United States over the last few weeks. In late-July early-August, four “thousand year-rainfall events” occurred in St. Louis, Kentucky, Illinois, and Death Valley, causing devastating flooding in those areas.