Pearl River Flooding: Residents begin ‘very long, long and enduring process’ toward recovery

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Josh Fairchild looks out at the flood water surrounding Mississippi Iron Works on State Street in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

Josh Fairchild looks out at the flood water surrounding the Jackson business that he helps manage. The near record flooding has left him out of work and forced his company to permanently relocate to Pearl, Mississippi. “We are devastated it’s kept us out of work and it has  a lot of other people out of work,” Fairchild said on Monday. “It’s not a very fun day here in Jackson.” 

Fairchild has been an employee at Mississippi Iron Works, located on State Street, for five years. The business is currently about 3 feet underwater due to flooding of the Pearl River, which crested at 36.7 feet on Monday. 

 “It is a day that we can reflect on soon and see that we all came from this and made it.”

-Josh Fairchild

“Additional rises are expected in certain areas, but we expect them to be localized, particularly near the (U.S.) Highway 80 area,” Gov. Tate Reeves said during a news conference Monday. “Everyone has worked well together, and that is something that I am proud of. We are making progress, but we still have more work to do.”

Col. Gregory S. Michel, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, says that the state’s next steps are to move toward recovery while the level is at a pause. “We will start our efforts toward the recovery, and we know that it’s going to be a very long, long and enduring process,” Michel said. Some of those affected by the flooding have evacuated their homes, not knowing what to expect when they return. Officials fear that hundreds of homes have been affected by flood waters.

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Wilner Hubbard, 63, cries tears of joy after receiving news that her home had not been damaged by the flooding in Jackson, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

Wilner Hubbard, an eight-year resident of her Harrow Drive home, was unaware of the condition of her home until unexpected help came to assess the damage for her. 

Christopher Lockhart, owner of Capital City Kayaks, parked his kayak on dry land after surveying the northeast area of Jackson were Hubbard’s home is surrounded by water. Lockhart finds Hubbard and pulls out his phone to show her photos that he had taken of her home. She looks at the Lockhart’s phone and tears start to trickle down her face. “I’m rejoicing because there is no water nowhere going in my house,” Hubbard said. She was one of the very few residents who were able to smile amid this natural disaster. 

“I am a guy with a bunch of boats, why not put them to work,” Lockhart said. In addition to Hubbard, Lockhart also helped Jeffery Lewis, owner of Mississippi Basketball and Athletics. Although Lockhart surveyed his business, Lewis was eager to see it for himself. 

“It’s good to see God put a protection over little ol me, and I’m excited about that because he didn’t have to do it.”

-Wilner Hubbard

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Christopher Lockhart, owner of Capital City Kayaks, took his kayaks out to areas of Jackson to help residents survey their homes during the Pearl River flood.

“I could’ve been anywhere else, but I am here right now helping these people. It’s a great feeling.”

Chris Lockhart

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Jeffery Lewis, Mississippi Basketball and Athletics, waits for members of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Special Response Team to give him a ride on their swamp boat to his athletic training facility in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

Lewis waited near the flood water in his knee-high rubber boots for members of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Special Response Team to give him a ride on their swamp boat to his athletic training facility. Lewis’ business not only trains athletes, but it serves as an after school program and has a weekly meals program.

In addition to being troubled with the thought of his business being flooded, he was also concerned how it would affect his community. “We don’t have anywhere for the kids to go. Kids come here every day,” Lewis said. After the response team took him to his facility, he was relieved that the water seemingly had not made it to the inside of the building. 

“I’ve been living in Jackson all my life and I’ve never seen it flood like this on Westbrook before.”

-Jeffery Lewis

These are only a few stories from some of the flood victims in the Jackson Metro Area. Now the threat from the flooding moves toward Copiah, Simpson, Lawrence, Jeff Davis, Marion, Pearl River and Hancock counties, the governor said. 

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Flood water nearly submerges train tracks near State Street in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

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