University community members are adjusting to the effects of historic floods that have displaced Mississippians and flooded thousands of homes in the Jackson area.
While the University of Mississippi Medical Center, which is in Jackson, has not been affected by the flooding, several nursing students there have been displaced.
Sissy Byrd and Caroline Bates are roommates and in their third semesters at the University of Mississippi School of Nursing. Before the issuance of the state of emergency on Saturday, their apartment complex sent out a mass-email telling residents to evacuate.
Byrd and Bates had already left to go to their respective family homes for the weekend in Brandon and McComb by the time the complex told them to evacuate, and now, neither knows when they will be able to return.
“They tried to get everyone out of our apartment building,” Bates said. “Especially if we had cars low to the ground, those wouldn’t be able to leave the premises after (a certain level of rainfall).”
Bates and Byrd live in a second-story apartment in Flowood, and they said they feel lucky to live on a hill so that they don’t have to worry about water damage inside of the home. Still, Bates said the flooding is affecting them.
“The entrance gate at our building is completely flooded right now and so is part of the parking lot,” she said. “Yesterday, they said it was eight inches tall of standing flood water just at the entrance gate, so no one could get in or out.”
Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted that the heavy rain is causing a “historic, unprecedented flood.” On Saturday, Reeves issued a state of emergency, and students, alumni and their families are being forced to react.
Jackson resident and Ole Miss alumna Waverly McCarthy said her boyfriend, Tyler Prince, was one of over 500 residents who the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries told to evacuate on Saturday.
“There was a little bit of panic when officials were telling him to leave,” McCarthy said. “We went and looked at the damage yesterday, and right now, he doesn’t know really when he’ll be able to go back.”
Prince, who is also an alumnus of the university, lives in northeast Jackson, where evacuations were mandatory.
“It’s really bad right in front of his house and around his neighborhood,” McCarthy said. “But for most of his neighbors, they were there in ‘79 and ‘83 when the area flooded.”
McCarthy referred to two of the most devastating floods in state history, presumably the same two that Reeves referenced when he warned Mississippians that the current flooding in and around Jackson has potential to be “the third worst flood in our state’s history.”
In April 1979, more than 17,000 residents of Jackson and surrounding areas were forced out of their homes by what is known as the Easter Flood, when the Pearl River reached its highest water level on record at 43.28 feet. Then, in the flood of 1983, the river rose to 39.58 feet, triggering a less widespread, but still impactful evacuation in the area.
This Monday, the Pearl River crested at approximately 36.7 feet, which the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) reports as the third-highest crest on-record.
Since the major flooding began last Friday, the Southeast Regional Climate Center has declared that this winter — Dec. 1 through Feb. 16 — has been the winter with the most precipitation that Jackson has seen since 1983.
Central Mississippi saw 25.69 inches of rainfall from Dec. 1 to Feb. 16, and local meteorologists predict the downpour to continue sporadically through the week.
MEMA director of external affairs Malary White said that the agency has received reports of nearly 1,000 homes flooding in the area.
Still, she said that no one will be able to determine the full impact of the floods until the water recedes and MEMA can deploy inspections.
“The number of folks that have evacuated is hard to calculate because only 24 have stayed in our shelter,” White said.
In a statement on Sunday, MEMA said heavy rainfall in Central Mississippi should start Tuesday, and another several inches could fall.