Marty Pope, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service said in a Friday news conference the Pearl River will likely reach 34-35 feet this weekend.
“One of the things that we need to let you guys know is the fact that this is not a short event,” Pope said. “We’re not going to even crest until Tuesday morning. The water after that will stay high for a while.”
Pope also noted high river levels and more rain could lead to flash flooding in the city, particularly in northeastern Jackson.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, said Friday they expect waters to start impacting residents as early as Sunday evening and referenced flooding in 2020 when the Pearl River reached 36.7 feet.
“If you were one of the early impacted communities in 2020 it is likely that you will be one of the early impacted communities in 2022,” Lumumba said “Residents in those impacted areas should be ready to leave within 48 hours.”
Lumumba also says the Red Cross will be on hand to assist with opening shelters as needed and sandbags are available for residents to pick up this weekend.
Tamica Smith Jeuitt, executive director of the Southwest Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross said a shelter will open Friday night for those who need it.
Capital city prepares
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Stephen McCraney echoed the mayor’s comments, and said emergency responders learned from experience and have been planning for another flood.
The mayor said sandbags are being made available.
This week, a slow-moving weather system drenched parts of the South, triggering flash floods that stranded residents, washed away roads, derailed a train, crept into homes and forced numerous rescues.
The weather service issued a flash flood emergency Wednesday for nearly 300,000 people in Jackson and nearby communities.
On Thursday morning, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District increased the discharge from Barnett Reservoir, a move the district warned would put water on Jackson streets.
“We are calling for voluntary evacuation to take place over the course of this time in the areas that are expected to be affected,” the mayor said. “We expect somewhere by Monday into Tuesday, many neighborhoods will be impacted.”
“I think it is important that our residents prepare in advance,” he continued. “If we instruct you that you are in a risk area, high risk area, please heed that advice.”
A flood stage is considered “major” at 26 feet. The current flood warning says dozens of additional streets in downtown Jackson will flood at 34 feet, with water close to entering homes in Northeast Jackson at 35.8 feet.
The warning says, “Forecast includes rainfall on the ground and 24 hours of additional rainfall.”
For Friday, a flood watch in the region
On Friday, a flood watch stretches along southern Mississippi into Alabama and the far western panhandle of Florida through the afternoon. Included are Pensacola, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; and Hattiesburg and Natchez, Mississippi.
Jackson is north of Friday’s flood watch. But the Pearl River flowing through it is under a flood warning as water continues to run off from this week’s rain. The river is at moderate flood stage Friday morning.
A slight risk of excessive rainfall exists Friday from eastern Louisiana to the Florida panhandle as slow moving showers and thunderstorms meander across the region. An additional 2 to 4 inches could fall in spots, leading to increased flood concerns. Areas that have recently experienced flooding are at greatest risk as rivers and streams remain swollen by this week’s deluge.
Minor to moderate river flooding is forecast to continue across central and southern Mississippi through the weekend. Low-lying and flood-prone areas will remain vulnerable.
CNN’s Derek Van Dam and Monica Garrett contributed to this report.