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Governor Declares Water Emergency for Mississippi Capital: NPR

Hinds County Emergency Management Operations Deputy Director Tracy Funches, right, and Operations Coordinator Luke Chennault walk through flood waters in northeast Jackson, Mississippi, on Monday, August 29 of 2022.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP


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Rogelio V. Solis/AP


Hinds County Emergency Management Operations Deputy Director Tracy Funches, right, and Operations Coordinator Luke Chennault walk through flood waters in northeast Jackson, Mississippi, on Monday, August 29 of 2022.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

JASON, Mrs. — Governor of Mississippi. Tate Reeves said Monday night that he will declare a state of emergency after excessive rains exacerbated problems at one of Jackson’s water treatment plants and caused low water pressure in much of the capital city.

The low pressure raised concerns about fire suppression and about people’s ability to shower or flush toilets.

Reeves said that on Tuesday, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will begin distributing potable and non-potable water in the city of 150,000 people, and the National Guard will be called in to help. The governor said that he understands that the people of Jackson do not want to have problems with the water system.

“I get it. I live in the city. It’s not news I want to hear,” Reeves said. “But we will be there for you.”

A swollen Pearl River flooded streets and at least one home in Jackson on Monday, days after storms dumped heavy rain, but water levels were beginning to recede. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the water did not rise as high as expected. Previous projections showed that between 100 and 150 buildings in the Jackson area faced the possibility of flooding.

“We thank the Lord above all for saving so many of our residents,” Lumumba said Monday, hours before the governor was to speak about the water system.

The National Weather Service said the Pearl River had crested about 10.8 meters (35.4 feet). That’s below the main flood stage of 36 feet (10.97 meters).

Jackson has two water treatment plants, the largest of which is near a reservoir that provides most of the city’s water supply. The reservoir also has a role in flood control.

Lumumba, a Democrat who was not invited to the Republican governor’s news conference, said the flooding has created additional problems at the treatment plant and the low water pressure could last a few days.

“What I like is that if you were drinking from a Styrofoam cup, someone puts a hole in the bottom of it, you’re trying to fill it while it’s running off the bottom,” Lumumba said.

Jackson has longstanding problems with his water system. A cold snap in 2021 left a significant number of people without running water after pipes froze. Similar problems occurred again earlier this year, on a smaller scale. The city has been under a boil water advisory since late July because tests found a cloudy quality in the water that could lead to health problems.

Legislative leaders reacted with alarm to the latest problems with Jackson’s water system.

“We have serious concerns for the health and safety of citizens,” the Republican lieutenant said. government Delbert Hosemann said in a statement on Monday, suggesting that the state take a role in trying to resolve the problem.

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said he has been contacted by hospitals, businesses and schools “pleading that something be done to address the water crisis in Jackson.”

As the Pearl River began to rise last week, some Jackson residents began moving furniture and appliances out of their homes, and others stocked up on sandbags. Two years ago, torrential rains caused the river to rise to 36.7 feet (11.2 meters) and Jackson homes in the hardest-hit neighborhoods were filled with dirty water and infested with snakes.

Suzannah Thames owns a three-bedroom rental home in northeast Jackson that was flooded with about 3 feet (0.9 meters) of water in 2020. Thames hired a crew to remove appliances, furniture and other belongings from the house on Friday. She said Monday that the house was inundated with about 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 centimeters) of water on Sunday night.

“I thought it was going to be a lot worse,” Thames said. “I feel very lucky. I feel very blessed.”

Andre Warner, 54, said Monday that his family had placed all of their furniture on concrete blocks inside their home to prepare for possible flooding in another northeast Jackson neighborhood.

Warner said the family had to leave their home for two weeks during the 2020 flood. Water was not coming into their home at the time, but there was no power in their neighborhood because other homes were flooded.

“We had to wait for it to drain and dry for them to reconnect the network,” Warner said.

The Mississippi flood was less severe than the flood that caused death and destruction in Kentucky last month. Those floods left at least 39 dead and stripped thousands of families of all their possessions. Nearly a month later, residents are torn between rebuilding where they call home or starting over elsewhere.

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