HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Days of torrential rain across the Southeast left residents to deal with rising rivers, falling trees, weakened dams and mudslides Thursday as storms finally subsided.
Multiple vehicles plowed into trees that fell across a highway in Mississippi, and officials in the capital of Jackson warned some residents to evacuate in preparation for expected flooding. A soggy hillside collapsed near a casino in Vicksburg next to the Mississippi River, while a flooded pumping station in Alabama forced officials to close schools and ask residents to conserve water.
Mississippi emergency management officials said hundreds of homes could flood in Jackson and its suburbs in coming days when the Pearl River overflows its banks after weeks of heavy rainfall. They said residents would need to stay away from their homes for three to four days.
“Once this occurs and the river rises, there won’t be any turning back,” said Jackson City Engineer Charles Williams.
The rains were expected to create the worst flooding in Jackson since 1983. That’s the second-highest crest on record, below an epic flood in the spring of 1978 that created widespread damage. Since that time, development in the Pearl River floodplain in suburban Rankin County has grown rapidly.
Officials in Starkville, Mississippi, were worried that around-the-clock pumping wasn't doing enough to relieve pressure on the rain-swollen Oktibbeha County Lake, where part of the dam collapsed in a mudslide last month.
Water in the reservoir was rising, and tarps and sandbags used to stabilize the dam had moved because of erosion, requiring repairs, officials said.
“We encourage residents to make preparations now in the event they are required to evacuate,” county emergency management director Kristen Campanella said in a statement.
Along the Mississippi River in Vickburg, Mississippi, part of the parking lot at WaterView Casino and Hotel was covered with soil and grass after a soggy hillside collapsed, but no one was hurt and the gambling hall remained open.
Near Vicksburg, one person was taken to a hospital after seven 18-wheelers and a minivan collided with two trees that fell across Interstate 20 overnight, news outlets reported.
In north Alabama, Hartselle schools canceled for the day because water from a rising creek flooded a water pumping station, the Morgan County Sheriff's Office said in a statement posted on Facebook. Utility officials in the town of about 14,000 people asked residents to conserve water but lifted the request once the problem was fixed.
Alabama transportation officials shut down a major highway leading to Huntsville because of a crack that developed in the road after days of heavy rain. Crews were repairing both sides of U.S. 231 near Lacey's Springs, forcing commuters to take detours.
Flood warnings covered much of north and west Alabama. Workers had to clear roads in Lawrence County after strong winds overnight knocked down trees that toppled over in saturated soil.
Parts of central Alabama had received more than 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain since Tuesday, and rainfall totals in excess of 3 inches (8 centimeters) were common. A flood warning for the Tennessee River at Florence, located in northwest Alabama, is in effect until Feb. 20.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear warned of additional rains for the southeastern part of the state after flooding last week that officials said was the worst since the late 1970s. There were about 100 search and rescue operations in 10 counties during the flooding, Beshear said.
Associated Press reporter Jeff Amy contributed to this story from Atlanta, Georgia.