/The Pearl River’s downstream communities brace for the worst as Jackson’s floodwaters recede

The Pearl River’s downstream communities brace for the worst as Jackson’s floodwaters recede

Normaly, the river is about 30 yards downhill from her home. On Wednesday, however, the rising waters were within a foot of her home. Ashley pointed out the sandbags that were stacked against her house’s back as she remembered the devastating flood of 1979 that decimated the livelihoods so many Mississippians. Ashley stated that her parents’ house was across the driveway and had been flooded four feet in 1979. They lost everything and had to start all over again. This is the second highest level since that time. We’ll be lucky this time, and won’t need to drink any water. But I know that it’s worse for others. It’s something I witnessed (in 1979). Ashley and thousands of Mississippians living along the Pearl River are just beginning to feel the effects of the historic flood. Others further downstream are still waiting for the flood waters to rise. According to meteorologists, this year’s Pearl River flood was second in severity on record, after the 1979 Easter flood. The 444-mile river that begins in Neshoba County and splits the Louisiana-Mississippi border before dumping into the Mississippi Sound significantly jumped its banks in 1979, creating damage of an estimated $500 million to $700 million in the state. Officials believe that there are tens to millions of dollars worth of damage already done, especially in Jackson, where many homes and businesses were submerged and thousands were affected. Although national attention has shifted to Jackson’s flooding, many residents living along the Copiah/Simpson County border have also been evacuated. High waters have closed several roads in the region, including Highway 28. This major trucking route runs between Interstate 55 and Hazlehurst. Rockport, an unincorporated community located in Copiah County 50 miles south from the Ross Barnett Reservoir, is not expected to see the river crest before Thursday night. Further downstream, the river will not crest in places such as Monticello in Lawrence County and Columbia in Marion County. Red Cross and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency teams have been in Copiah County assessing damage to homes and providing shelter for families who have been displaced. Earl Allen, a 87-year old man who has spent most of his life living on the Pearl River near Rockport said that the main concern isn’t when flood waters rise but what happens when they recede quickly. Allen stated that “we really are at the mercy” of those who manage the Ross Barnett Reserve dam. They’ll flood us every now and again, but then they will cut off the water all at once. The river drops fast and the banks are too wet to dry so they will be swept into the river. It is difficult to understand how wide the river has become in the past 40 years and how many people have lost their land because of it.” Georgetown is a small town north of Rockport. The flood is attracting business from far-flung areas. The Kountry Kitchen buffet has been the gathering place for emergency workers descending upon the area for days. Chiquita Bridges, a Georgetown librarian, said that she has never seen anything quite as amazing. She shared photos from the flood on Facebook to everyone who asked. It’s all that anyone can talk about. It’s horrible for those whose homes are being flooded. The Pearl River Lumber Company, Georgetown’s largest employer, shut down the sawmill on Thursday. Officials blocked several roads nearby due to rising water levels. Workers took extraordinary measures to prepare for flood. They moved stacks of logs away from the riverbank and purchased a pump motor to protect the mill from permanent water damage. The sawmill is located on a small hill. On Wednesday, the river was still several feet away from the building. The mill’s owners are worried about the potential for significant erosion due to the fast-moving current behind it. This is evident when sawmill workers saw a frozen floating through their property earlier this week. Rob Pyron, whose family owns the mill since 2003, said that they hope the river bank is not eroded by the floodwaters. He pointed to the several feet of water that covered what is usually a dry, grassy area. “But overall, we’re blessed. It pains me that so many people aren’t as lucky.” Flood waters have reached a few homes on River Road in Simpson County. The flood is literally raising the dead. Coffins are being pulled out of the ground at Pine Ridge Missionary Baptist Church, Harrisville. Many residents have been evacuated further north than Georgetown by the flooding. According to emergency officials, 16 homes were under water as of Thursday afternoon in the Hopewell area of Copiah County. On Wednesday, one home at Gatesville Road in Crystal Springs was totally surrounded by water. The residents were able stay inside the house, but they needed to use a boat to travel from their front door to the street. Further north, Terry had several homes that were submerged near Rhodes Creek which flows into the Pearl River. Lana Ashley’s brother Mark Ashley kept an eye on another brother’s home in Rockport. It is located a few hundred meters from Lana’s. Mark Ashley used bright tape to place yardsticks around the property of his family so that he could see how high the water has risen. He points out dry areas where water rose in 1979 as he drives journalists through the waterlogged property, driving in an old pickup. He said, “It’s amazing how much this river changed over the years.” “I am just glad that it isn’t as high as 1979. There’s nothing you can do about flooding. You can only watch and pray for the best. We’ve done a lot of that.” [metaslider ID=”542438″]