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Pearl River rising in Jackson posing threat of historic flooding

JACKSON, Miss. – The Pearl River is expected to rise to historic levels this weekend, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes and shutting down roads around Jackson.

The river level by 11 a.m. Friday stood at 35.32 feet, more than 7 feet above flood stage. It’s expected to crest at 38 feet this weekend, or 2 feet above what’s considered a major flood stage.

The Pearl River, which meanders through residential and business areas near Jackson, may reach a level not seen in more than four decades, forecasters said. So Leti Vargas enlisted help from relatives to clear appliances from her double-wide in the Harbor Pines Mobile Home Community.

“I’ve worked too hard to purchase these, and I don’t want them destroyed,” said Vargas, 50.

Nearby, Donna and Mark Harvey put blocks under big items like furniture and left with what they could carry ahead of the rising water.

“Can you imagine we left Florida to come here and get washed out? People warned us about hurricanes in Florida and it’s the rains that wash us out,” said Donna Harvey.

The Easter Flood of 1979 inundated a wide swath of downtown Jackson and surrounding Rankin County municipalities. Floodwaters sent the Pearl River 15 feet above flood stage.

Marty Pope, service hydrologist with the National Weather Service, said an unanticipated 1 inch to 3 inches of rain fell to the north of Jackson on Wednesday and Thursday, spilling into the Pearl. Forecasters had predicted about half an inch.

Pope notes that as soon as the river crests above 36.30 feet, it will have reached the third highest level since river levels began being recorded in the 1900s.

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