JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency Saturday as officials said they will be forced to start letting more water out of a major reservoir, which could increase area flooding.
In Jackson, the Pearl River is expected to crest at 38 feet by 6 p.m. on Sunday, its third highest on record.
Ross Barnett Reservoir officials said they will be forced to start letting more water out at 6 p.m. Saturday, which will likely extend the length of time the Pearl River will be at its maximum crest.
Ricky Moore, the emergency management director for Hinds County, said the additional water flow will likely keep the predicted crest level of the Pearl at about 38 feet for several days.
“That means we’ll probably get to 38 and we’ll be there for a little while,” Moore said.
In a Saturday conference call with the National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, it was reported that many sites in the Pearl River basin north of the lake had crested.
“We will reach capacity and have no option but to release the water,” said John Sigman, general manager of the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District that oversees operation of the lake.
“We committed to allow time for the people downstream to evacuate and prepare, and we will hold to that promise as long as we can,” Sigman said.
As much as 7 inches of rain fell in the Pearl River basin this week, and the 33,000-acre reservoir is now nearing capacity.
Parts of Jackson and suburban Ridgeland were under evacuation orders, and some people had already filled trucks with furniture and other belongings to get out. Governor Reeves said more than 2,400 homes and other structures in and near Jackson could either be inundated or isolated by the rising waters.
“I cannot stress to you how important the next 24 to 48 hours is for the people who are going to be affected,” he said. “Today’s projections are showing the potential of this being the third worst flood in our history, therefore, today, I did declare a state of emergency.”
In Jackson, the state capital, residents were preparing for the worst. A line of cars stretched out of the city’s distribution center for sandbags Saturday afternoon. Sisters Erika and Clarissa Stevenson, 40 and 44, waited in line to fill up a pickup truck.
Police officers came to their house Friday and told them to evacuate, Clarissa said.
“When police knock on your door and tell you, ‘You need to go,’ that’s scary,” she said.
They live near Hico Lake and said they expect water to reach their house when the Pearl River crests. When asked what her plan was, Erika laughed and apologized for sounding cliche: “We’re just gonna rebuild and stay there.”
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Justin Vicory on Twitter @justinvicory