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Homes Flooded in Mississipppi Capital  02/18 06:18

   The swollen Pearl River appeared to have crested Monday in Mississippi's 
capital, but authorities warned the hundreds of evacuees in the Jackson area 
not to rush back home until they got the all clear, and a forecast of more rain 
put counties further south at risk of flooding.

   JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The swollen Pearl River appeared to have crested 
Monday in Mississippi's capital, but authorities warned the hundreds of 
evacuees in the Jackson area not to rush back home until they got the all 
clear, and a forecast of more rain put counties further south at risk of 

   No injuries were reported from the major flooding in central Mississippi and 
southern Tennessee. But as the high water recedes, officials expect to find 
damaged roads and problems with water and sewage pipes. In Savannah, Tennessee, 
two houses slid down a muddy bluff into the Tennessee River, although its 
residents had fled earlier.

   "Please do not move back into your neighborhood or into your home until 
authorities and officials give you the OK to do so," Mississippi Gov. Tate 
Reeves said at a news conference.

   A near-record rainy winter has forced authorities to release water from 
swollen reservoirs, potentially worsening the flooding for those living 

   "It is a chess match we're playing with Mother Nature," said Jim Hopson, 
spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

   The Pearl River appeared to crest at just under 37 feet (11.3 meters), 
Reeves said. It is forecast to fall below major flood stage at 36 feet (11 
meters) around midnight Tuesday, although more problems could arise if rains in 
the next few days are heavier than forecast.

   "We as a state are not in the clear yet," Reeves said.

   The Pearl's highest recorded crest was 43.2 feet on April 17, 1979. The 
second-highest level occurred May 5, 1983, when the river rose to 39.58 feet.

   Reeves thanked residents for heeding evacuation orders. Only 16 
search-and-rescue missions were needed, he said, even though as many as 1,000 
homes were flooded.

   One of those homes belongs to Chris Sharp, who had enough time to find an 
18-wheeler, load it with his possessions and drive away Friday from the house 
his parents bought in the 1970s. The house was inundated in those previous two 
flood years.

   On Monday, he tried to go back with a boat, but a police officer turned him 

   "All you can do is just sit back and watch," Sharp said by phone from his 
brother's nearby house.

   He expects several inches of water in his home, and this flood finally has 
Sharp considering whether his family should move. The home isn't covered by 
flood insurance because he said the cost has grown too expensive in recent 

   "I've been through it before, so I kind of knew what to do," Sharp said, 
giving a resigned laugh. "But there's a bunch of people who didn't do anything."

   Elsewhere in Jackson, residents paddled canoes, kayaks and small fishing 
boats to check on their houses, giving lifts to other neighbors. Some were able 
to enter their homes, while others peeked into the windows to check on damage 
inside. Floodwaters lapped at mailboxes, street signs and cars that had been 
left in driveways. 

   The momentary break in the rain enabled water levels at the Barnett 
Reservoir upriver of the capital to stabilize, but officials repeated their 
warnings to pay attention to evacuation orders, check on road closures before 
traveling and stay off any flooded roads.

   Mississippi emergency management officials said Sunday that they had 
received preliminary damage reports from 11 counties connected with the severe 
weather that began on Feb. 10.

   River gauges in four states from South Carolina west to Mississippi are 
reporting moderate flooding, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

   Forecasters predict more rain across the Southeast this week. It shouldn't 
be as heavy as previous weeks, but with lakes and reservoirs nearing capacity, 
it won't take a deluge to require authorities to release more water.

   Dramatic video posted by a Tennessee fire department showed the impact near 
Savannah: Two houses tumbled down  a bluff over the Tennessee River, while many 
others have been swamped to their rooftops, as entire neighborhoods disappear 
in muddy water below the Tennessee Valley Authority's Pickwick Reservoir. 

   Dozens of other homes in more low-lying areas were swamped, the department's 
drone video showed.

   "It absolutely kills you, knowing that" houses are getting destroyed 
downstream from the dam, the TVA's Hopson told The Associated Press on Monday. 
"We have engineers on duty 24-7 trying to figure out what's the most effective 
way to move this water downstream with the least impact. They feel it. I feel 

   February's rains have been "400 percent of normal, and we have more coming 
in this week. It's kind of a never-ending battle," Hopson added. 

   The Pickwick is the next-to-last dam in the TVA's system, and all the water 
from a river basin stretching into Virginia and Georgia has to flow through it 
before reaching the Ohio River and then the Mississippi. Water levels behind 
upstream tributary dams used to contain the flooding have risen as much as 40 
feet this month, but even then, the Pickwick was releasing 2.36 million gallons 
per second Monday, down only slightly from 2.5 million gallons per second 
Sunday night, Hopson said. 

   "Mother Nature is really the one in charge --- we simply try to manage what 
Mother Nature gives us, to minimize the impacts along the 652-mile Tennessee 
River and its thousands of miles of tributaries and streams," Hopson said.


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