As record-breaking rain and rising river water threaten to seep into their homes, the residents of Jackson, Mississippi, are once again packing up and hoping for the best.
The city — still dealing with the toll of historic 2020 floods — is bracing for more damage as the state’s Pearl River is expected to top 35.5 feet Monday morning, lower than previously expected but still high enough to flood streets.
As many as 150 homes were expected to be affected by the ensuing flooding, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said on Saturday, telling residents to “get out now.”
“We need our residents to heed these warnings and get out quickly,” Lumumba told CNN’s Amara Walker on New Day Sunday.
Authorities warn that communities most at risk are those affected by the flooding more than two years ago.
In February 2020, the Pearl River hit its third-highest record at 36.7 feet, flooding several neighborhoods in northeast and downtown Jackson, damaging some homes beyond repair, and leaving behind large amounts of debris.
“Before we can even recover from the first weather event, we are already being challenged by another,” Lumumba said.
Jackson resident Shawn Miller told CNN his home sustained $60,000 in damage during the 2020 flood, and it cost thousands more to move his family of five for six months on his own money.
Miller said he thought his family was taking proper precautions to keep water from getting in, but it wasn’t enough.
“You have no control over it. I had 50 sandbags and it did nothing,” Miller said, adding that he “came back and still had about a foot in the water damage in the house.”
On Sunday, there was water again in the street in front of his house, and he was wary.
“It’s a little concerning,” Miller said. “You shut off the power, you go out of the house, you just about have to pick up and leave. You don’t have a house anymore…you just have to come back and hope for the best.”
While river levels aren’t expected to reach the same level as 2020 this week, Lumumba told CNN that’s no reason to underestimate the threat.
The inflow from the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir reached a crest Sunday morning, but “there is still a lot of water to flow downstream,” according to a Sunday report from the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. The 33,000-acre reservoir supplies water to Jackson and is located upstream from the city.
“There will be water on several streets in Jackson and some homes and businesses may be approaching,” water district officials said.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency on Saturday due to rising river water and urged residents to remain calm. The state began assessing water levels along the river using drones and deployed more than 100,000 sandbags, according to the statement.
“The state of Mississippi is as prepared as possible for these floods,” Reeves said.
According to Lumumba, authorities are preparing for possible search and rescue operations, clearing debris, distributing sandbags to residents and providing public transportation to assist with evacuations.
The mayor said that this time officials are better equipped and able to better instruct residents on how to prepare for the flood by taking photos of their property and locating their critical documents.
“Unfortunately, because we didn’t see these events until 2020, we have a reference point and we know the damage that can occur,” Lumumba said.
“Whether we have the same number of homes affected or not, for those homes that are affected, that’s a handful too many that could be affected,” the mayor said. “So we want to make sure we have the easing after we have recovery that this no longer has to be commonplace in the city of Jackson.”
Miller agreed that government officials informed residents about the flood threat better than they did in 2020, when he came home to his surprise to find water from the street and his neighbor packing.
Residents in Jackson and other parts of Mississippi saw several days of heavy rain last week when a slow-moving weather system triggered flooding that forced evacuations, washed away roads, derailed a train, sneaked into homes and led to numerous rescues.
“Our residents have been inundated with persistent rain in recent days. So we’ve already had flash floods, and that’s taking a significant toll on our residents,” Lumumba said.
Flood warnings will remain in effect along the Pearl River, including in Jackson, Mississippi, until further notice, according to the National Weather Service office in Jackson.
Moderate flooding has already been reported along the river and is expected to continue for most of Wednesday as river levels remain higher than normal.
River levels stood at 35.28 feet Sunday evening and were on track to reach 35.5 feet Monday morning.
At that elevation, the water would flood several streets in northeast Jackson close to the river and dozens of streets in downtown Jackson, approaching homes in the Hightower area, NWS said.
“Honestly, this has become commonplace. We are experiencing more rain in our rainy season, warmer summers and colder winters, and that has taken a toll on our infrastructure,” said Lumumba.
Scattered showers and thunderstorms remain for the Jackson area and much of the southern states Monday, according to CNN meteorologist Haley Brink.
The good news is that widespread flooding in this area is not expected in the coming days, despite scattered thunderstorms being forecast. However, some storms can cause isolated heavy rainfall, Brink said.