Mississippi residents prepare for possible river flooding

Aug 26, 2022, 3:08 PM | Updated: 3:21 pm

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The rental home that Suzannah Thames owns in Mississippi’s capital city was filled with dirty, snake-infested flood water when the Pearl River overflowed its banks in 2020.

On Friday, Thames pointed to a column on the front porch to show how deep the water was then — about up to her waist. She’s now getting ready for another inundation, days after storms dumped torrential rainfall in Mississippi and other parts of the Deep South.

Hydrologists predict the Pearl River near Jackson will crest by Tuesday somewhat short of the levels it reached two years ago. Emergency officials are telling people in low-lying areas to prepare for flooding of homes and businesses.

Thames hired a crew to move furniture, appliances and other belongings out of the three-bedroom home that she now rents to a newly married couple — a medical student and engineer who will temporarily stay in a short-term vacation rental.

“We’re fortunate that we have two trailers,” Thames said as she oversaw the move. “There’s people who don’t have anything. There’s people who are going to lose everything.”

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has urged residents in flood zones to pack enough belongings to get them through several days of evacuation. He said law enforcement officers will increase patrols to protect property.

“Don’t allow that to be an impediment for you saving your life and saving the lives of those other individuals in your home,” Lumumba said during a news conference Friday.

Second-year medical student Emily Davis and her husband, engineer Andrew Bain, rent the white-brick home from Thames in northeast Jackson. Davis said they knew they were moving into a flood zone, but this is the first time she’s ever had to prepare for high water.

“I’ve felt really stressed because there’s so much to do — so much more than I realized to do,” Davis said as workers hoisted items into moving vans.

Thames said the rental home is covered by flood insurance, and she lives in an elevated house nearby. She said her house is built 4 feet (1.2 meters) above the line of a massive 1979 flood.

Thames said she wants officials to move forward with a long-discussed plan to build another lake near Jackson to control flooding in the metro area. The project has stalled amid funding problems and opposition from people downstream along the Pearl River.

Thames describes her neighborhood as “paradise” because she can watch deer, alligators and other wildlife less than a mile from the Pearl River, even inside the city limits.

“I’ve lived in the flood zone for 30 years,” Thames said. “I’m not crying, ‘Oh, poor me, I’ve been flooded,’ because I knew of the potentiality of it and I prepared for it.”

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Mississippi residents prepare for possible river flooding