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US weather forecast: ‘Catastrophic flooding’ feared in Mississippi as people race to get ready

MISSISSIPPI locals are bracing for catastrophic flooding in what threatens to be one of the most severe floods in decades to hit the state.

Officials have warned residents to clear out as the worst of the flooding is yet to come - levels not seen since 1983.

Mississippi declared a state of emergency yesterday amid fears the Pearl River could burst its banks.

The river, which runs around Jackson, has risen precipitously after days of torrential rain and may soon reach its highest point in decades.

Governor Tate Reeves said the Pearl would continue to rise, warning the state faces a “precarious situation that can turn at any moment.”

During a briefing at a state emergency centre on Sunday morning, Gov. Reeves said: “We do not anticipate this situation ending anytime soon.”

“It will be days before we are out of the woods and the water starts to recede.”

The governor repeated a plea urging residents to pay attention to evacuation orders, check on road closures before traveling and stay out of floodwaters.

He warned that even seemingly placid waters could mask quickly moving currents and pollution.

Gov. Reeves added: “Protect yourself and protect your family.”

Law enforcement officials went door to door in affected areas, telling people to evacuate, expecting the river to continue to rise over the next 24 hours.

Sandbags were distributed by the thousands, and rescue crews with boats and high-water vehicles were standing by on Sunday to rescue anyone who became stranded.

Rescuers performed four assisted evacuations Saturday, although they said none were needed overnight.

As of Saturday night, the Pearl River, already moderately flooding some neighborhoods around northeast Jackson, had risen to nearly 36 feet and nearly 8 feet above flood stage.

"This is a historic, unprecedented flood," Reeves tweeted on Saturday.

More than 2,400 homes and other structures in and near Jackson could be destroyed or isolated as rain is expected to pound down and push the river out of its banks.Forecasters expected the

floodwaters to continue flowing outward, threatening a broader swath of the area, including the heart of the state government in downtown Jackson.

On Sunday, the National Weather Service wrote on Twitter that the river was expected to crest Monday in the Jackson area at 37.5 feet.

It’s a measurement slightly down from the 38-foot crest that had been forecast for Sunday.

The weather service said the river is currently at 36.42 feet in Jackson — its highest level since 1983.

When the Pearl River crested at its highest level, 43.2 feet, on April 17, 1979 it caused up to $700 million in damage and saw 15,000 people evacuated.

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