With the waters of the Pearl River continuing to rise in and around the capital city of Mississippi and raining more this week, the governor warned residents that it would take days for the flood waters to recede.
Governor Tate Reeves said Sunday morning that the Pearl would continue to rise throughout the day and warned that the state faces a "precarious situation that could change at any time".
In a Jackson neighborhood, residents rowed canoes, kayaks and small fishing boats to check their homes, giving elevators to other neighbors. Some managed to get in, while others peered through the windows to see what had been caused, if there was any damage. Flood waters hit mailboxes, street signs and cars left on the sidewalks.
In some good news, authorities at a reservoir in the upper part of the capital said Sunday that water levels in the reservoir had stabilized, allowing them to send less water. The National Meteorological Service, which anticipated the river would peak at 18 meters on Sunday, on Sunday reduced it slightly to 37.5 meters. The river is now expected to reach the top on Monday.
But even with this development, the authorities asked residents to pay attention to evacuation orders, to check the road closures before traveling and to stay out of the floodwaters, warning that even seemingly placid waters could mask fast-moving currents and pollution. Police officials went door to door in the affected areas, telling people to evacuate, Reeves said.
Rescuers carried out four assisted evacuations on Saturday, although they said none were needed overnight.
"We hope the river will continue to rise for the next 24 hours," Reeves said at a news conference in Jackson. "We are not yet out of danger."
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba said the power was cut to 504 homes as a security measure. He said some houses in the city were flooded, but officials still do not know how many. About 30 people are in a shelter set up in Jackson, he said.
Nearly 2,400 structures in the three municipalities closest to the river and the reservoir – Hinds, Rankin and Madison – could be affected, meaning they either put water in or are surrounded by water, said Malary White of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency .
In the suburb of Flowood, John and Jina Smith packed up as much as they could and left their home when the waters rose on Thursday.
On Sunday, his neighbor Dale Frazier took them home in a rowboat, where they checked the damage, got into his own canoe and left.
"We manage to stay here when the water rises," said John Smith. "But, as you've watched over the years, you know when to leave. It's time to leave this time."
A foot and a half of water was inside his home, Smith said. He had already contacted a contractor and insurance agent about the reconstruction. He and his wife said they love the house, where they can sit on the back porch and watch deer and other wildlife.
"It will be a while before we can rebuild, but we are safe and well," said Jina Smith.
In the parking lot next to Frazier, the water was at the bottom of the driveway, but he had not entered the one-story home where he has lived for 23 years.
“The water is very close to my home. It can flood; it couldn't flood. It depends on the crest now, ”he said.
At the end of the street, a Presbyterian church and several companies were flooded.
While the focus is now on the Jackson area, heavy rains and floods have affected a much larger area of the state. State emergency management officials said on Sunday that they had received preliminary reports of damage from 11 counties related to the severe weather that hit the state as of February 10.
The Pearl's highest recorded peak was 43.2 feet on April 17, 1979. The second highest level occurred on May 5, 1983, when the river rose to 39.58 feet.
On Saturday night, authorities released water from the nearby Barnett reservoir to control its levels. They asked residents of northeastern Jackson, who live in the flood zone downstream of the reservoir, to leave immediately. On Sunday morning, Reeves said the reservoir's entry and exit had matched.
Reservoir officials said it allowed them to release less water than expected.
"We have good news today," said John G. Sigman, who oversees the reservoir's operations, during a separate press conference on Sunday afternoon.
When the river rises on Monday, the water will take three to four days to descend significantly. Part of the reason is that meteorologists expect more rain between noon Tuesday and Wednesday night.
"It will take days before we leave the forest and the waters start to subside," said the governor.
This version corrects the reservoir name. It is the Barnett reservoir, not the Ross Barnette reservoir.
Santana reported from New Orleans.