Scientists concerned over post-Lee flooding

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Published: September 6,2011

Tags: flooding, floods, rain, severe weather, tropical weather, Weather

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — The National Weather Service has warned Central and South Mississippi residents to keep a close eye on river flooding, especially along the Pearl River Basin, in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee.

Forecasters issued a series of flood warnings covering areas running from north of Jackson to the Gulf Coast and into next week.

Marty Pope, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said today the Pearl River Basin area received some of the heaviest rainfall from Tropical Storm Lee. He said the City of Forest in Scott County received 12 inches of rain as Lee moved through yesterday.

“Right now it looks like we’re going to be watching the upper part of the Pearl River Basin through early next week. Areas in the upper basin north of the Ross Barnett Reservoir received nine to 12 inches of rain,” Pope said.

The Pearl River was expected to reach at crest of 33 to 34 feet by Sunday in Jackson. Flood stage is 28 feet. The water will then head south as the river runs through Copiah, Simpson, Marion and Wathall counties and eventually empting into the Mississippi River.

“The Pearl basin is the biggest concern. There’s some flooding on the Big Black River around Columbus. But much of the major flooding is confined to the Pearl. The most concern is where there was the greatest rainfall… across the basin from Rankin County to Scott, Neshoba, Leake and Newton,” Pope said.

Flooding also continued to be a threat in South Mississippi. Warnings continued for the Wolf River north of Gulfport, the Biloxi River near Lyman and the Tchoutacabouffa River near D’Iberville. Residents living in those areas were asked to take precautionary actions.

“We’re dealing with an incident within an incident,” Lacy said of the connection between Lee and the flooding local officials had expected.

Jackson County emergency director Brian Langham said a lack of rain for a couple of weeks had kept local rivers low.

The Pascagoula and Escatawpa rivers in Jackson County were expected to crest later this week, Langham said.

“Rain dropping north of us is when our rivers go up. There’s a lot of rain to come back down the hill,” Langham said.

On the Gulf Coast, crews were out today on U.S. 90 trying to remove wet sand left on the beachfront road. Crews began work from the Biloxi Lighthouse to the Bay St. Louis Bridge and then moved to other areas. Wind-blown sand and rain from Lee had prompted officials to ask motorists to stay off the highway.

In Harrison County, Lacy said the beach took a beating and officials will be busy over the next few days cleaning debris that washed ashore. Recently erected beach fencing was shredded by tropical storm-force winds.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reported damage in at least 22 counties, including downed trees and power lines and flooded roads. One death in Tishomingo County was blamed on the storm.

The American Red Cross opened three shelters in Madison, Jackson and Ridgeland to help residents impacted by the flooding.

Today, flood watches and warnings were in effect from Northeast Alabama and Tennessee through West Virginia to upstate New York. Rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches, with isolated spots up to 10 inches, were possible as heavy rain spread into the Central Appalachians, according to the National Weather Service.

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