Mississippi governor declares state of emergency over Pearl River flooding fears

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The restrooms on the Madison County side of the Ross Barnett Reservoir Spillway Park are about the only structure still visible as floodwaters have covered both sides of the popular fishing and boat landing in central Mississippi, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. The gates to the Ross Barnett Reservoir Spillway Park are chained closed as floodwaters have covered both sides of the popular fishing and boat landing in Rankin County, Miss., Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. On Sunday, the river is expected to crest at 38 feet. Only twice before has the Pearl River surpassed 38 feet — during the historic floods of 1979 and 1983. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Ms.(CBS) – Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency on Saturday due to heavy rain that is expected to raise the state’s Pearl River to historic levels on Sunday.

“This is a historic, unprecedented flood. With projections showing the potential of this being the 3rd worst flood in our state’s history, I’ve declared a state of emergency to deploy the necessary resources to take care of all Mississippians impacted,” Reeves said on Twitter.

The Pearl River, which runs through the state’s capital city of Jackson, is expected to crest at 38.8 feet on Sunday, according to city officials.

The National Weather Service has warned it will be the worst flood since in state in nearly 40 years. In the winter of 1982 and spring of 1983, widespread flooding occurred across Central and Southern Mississippi, dropping “in excess of 200 percent of normal rainfall” on the Jackson Metropolitan area, according to the NWS’ flood history.

Weeks of torrential rainfall have stressed the Pearl River. Mississippi emergency management officials warned that the rain expected in the coming days could overflow its banks, flooding hundreds of homes.

Jackson City Engineer Charles Williams told The Associated Press that “once this occurs and the river rises, there won’t be any turning back.”

The city declared a state of emergency on Thursday, followed by a mandatory evacuation order on Friday for certain areas of the city. Residents have been encouraged to evacuate before the water reaches their homes.

“Citizens who live in low-lying areas should take precautions to leave their residence no later than SATURDAY, February 15, 2020,” reads a warning issued by the city.

Reeves called the flooding expected this weekend a “precarious situation,” but said the state has brought in “everyone to assist.”

“(We are) coordinating with MEMA, MHP, and MODT, we are also working with our partners at the National Guard, Homeland Security, Corps of Engineers, MDEQ, and the American Red Cross,” the governor wrote on Twitter.

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