States of emergency in Mississippi’s capital due to low water pressure after heavy rains

Severe Weather
Floodwater from the Pearl River covered the parking lot at the Mississippi Basketball and Athletics Complex in Jackson, Miss., ON Aug. 29, 2022.

Rogelio V. Solis / AP


Jackson, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday night that he was declaring a state of emergency for Jackson after excessive rainfall exacerbated problems in one of its water treatment plants and caused low water pressure through much of the state’s capital city.

The low pressure raised concerns about firefighting and people’s ability to take showers or flush toilets.

Reeves said that on Tuesday, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will start distributing both drinking water and non-potable water in the city of 150,000 residents, and the National Guard will be called in to help. The governor said he understands people in Jackson don’t want to have water system problems.

“I get it. I live in the city. It’s not news that I want to hear,” Reeves said. “But we are going to 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 starting to recede. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the water didn’t rise as high as expected. Earlier projections showed about 100 to 150 buildings in the Jackson area faced the possibility of flooding.

“We thank the Lord most of all for sparing so many of our residents,” Lumumba said Monday, hours before the governor spoke about the water system. Lumumba also declared  a water system emergency Monday due to complications from the flooding, CBS Jackson affiliate WJTV reports.

The National Weather Service said the Pearl River had crested at about 35.4 feet, short of the major flood stage level of 36 feet.

Jackson has two water treatment plants and the larger one 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 wasn’t invited to the Republican governor’s news conference – said flooding has created additional problems at the treatment plant, and low water pressure could last a few days.

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

WJTV says more than 100,000 people there won’t have reliable, running water until the issue at the treatment facility has been fixed.

State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney said neighbors should boil their water for one minute before drinking it, the station notes.

Jackson public schools were switching to remote learning Tuesday as a result of the water problems, WJTV said.

The city said the water shortage is likely to last for the next couple of days, according to WJTV.  

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

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

“We have grave concerns for citizens’ health and safety,” Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said in a statement Monday, suggesting the state take a role in trying to solve the issue.

The 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 started to rise last week, some Jackson residents started moving furniture and appliances out of their homes, and others stocked up on sandbags. Two years ago, torrential rain caused the river to reach 36.7 feet and homes in the hardest-hit neighborhoods were filled with dirty, snake-infested floodwaters.

Suzannah Thames owns a three-bedroom rental home in northeast Jackson that flooded with about 3 feet of water in 2020. Thames hired a crew to move appliances, furniture and other belongings out of the home Friday. She said Monday that the home flooded with about 3 to 4 inches inches of water late Sunday.

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

Andre Warner, 54, said Monday that his family had put all their furniture up on cinderblocks inside their home to prepare for possible flooding in another northeast Jackson neighborhood.

Warner said the family had to leave home for two weeks during the 2020 flood. Water didn’t enter their house then, but electricity was off in their neighborhood because other homes were inundated.

“We had to wait for it to drain and dry out for them to cut the grid back on,” Warner said.

The Mississippi flooding was less severe than flooding that caused death and destruction in Kentucky last month. Those floods left at least 39 dead and robbed thousands of families of all their possessions. Nearly a month later, residents are wrestling with whether to rebuild at the place they call home or to start over somewhere else. 

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