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Mississippi under state of emergency after historic flooding, above-normal rain triggers inundation and landslides in Tennessee


Incessant heavy rains continued to drench portions of the southern U.S., causing several rivers and dams to overflow. Unprecedented flooding in Mississippi put the state under a state of emergency on February 15, 2020, as Pearl River reached its third-highest level on record at 11.2 m (36.7 feet). Meanwhile, a landslide in Tennessee destroyed several houses as rains in the area have been four times above normal for February.

In Mississippi, among the worst-affected areas is Jackson, where the Pearl River surpassed Major Flood stage and reached 11.2 m (36.7 feet) on Monday, February 17– the state's third-highest level ever.

Prior to this, the government of the state declared a state of emergency on Saturday, February 15.

"This is a historic, unprecedented flood," said Governor Tate Reeves. "With projections showing the potential of this being the third-worst flood in our state’s history, I’ve declared a state of emergency to deploy the necessary resources to take care of all Mississippians impacted."

"Protect yourself and your family– have a plan in place and evacuate if and when you are asked."

According to Emergency Management, over 2 400 structures would be affected by the flooding, mich of them in Hinds County which includes Jackson, and also some in neighboring counties Rankin and Madison.

Evacuation orders were issued in the areas, where around 16 people were saved by the rescue team from submerged homes. Furthermore, around 1 000 homes were reportedly damaged by the waters.

Authorities have yet to disclose full details of damages, but they confirmed that there were no fatalities or injuries.

In Tennessee, historic flooding also prompted evacuations and triggered a landslide in the Chalk Bluff area, sending two houses plunging into the Tennessee River.

Reports said within an hour of evacuation, a vacant home collapsed on Saturday night, while the second home pummelled into the river Sunday, February 16. There were no injuries reported.

Moreover, the river's water levels remained high after the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) increased dam flows. The agency said rainfall in the month of February was already more than 400 percent above normal.

TVA said so far this month, the Tennesee Valley has seen on average more than 203 mm (8 inches) of rain, with some areas already receiving more than 305 mm (12 inches) or one foot.

"That amount is on track to challenge the record 295 mm (11.6 inches) of February 2019."

"We’re managing large amounts of inflow and runoff from recent rainfall to bring levels along the upper mainstem back into normal winter ranges."

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), rains up to 51 mm (2 inches) are expected to impact Mississippi from Tuesday to Thursday, February 18 to 20, possibly leading to flash flooding.

Meanwhile, TVA said only about 25 mm (1 inch) of rain is expected this week in Tennessee. "We continue to pull tributary lakes back down towards their normal winter levels to recover flood storage. Rivers below the tributary dams will continue to be elevated."

Featured image credit: Pickwick Dam

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