JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Usually around this time of the year, late summer, the Pearl River is just a meandering stream. If you wanted to go pole fishing, you’d have to slide down its banks to get to the water, but not right now. The Mighty Pearl has levitated itself nearly 36 feet above its theoretical bottom and rushes passed the city and its suburbs southward toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The flood stage in Jackson is 28 feet and the major flood stage is 36 feet. That’s about the point where floodwater starts getting into houses in Northeast Jackson subdivisions. The 36 feet ties us with the 8th highest flood on record on the Pearl. The river crested just below that on Monday.
Jackson has had flood problems with the Pearl river ever since there was a Jackson 200 years ago this year. For most of that time, it didn’t matter too much because most of of the city was built above the flood plain. As Jackson began to really grow and spread out, the periodic floods on the Pearl became a real problem.
The Easter Flood of 1979 was the worst. The water reached 43.25 feet on the Jackson gauge. The Interstate 20 bridge was the only way to get across the Pearl in Jackson in ‘79. Old Brandon Road, Highway 80 and Spillway Road were all under water. Back then, all of these buildings were automobile dealers on South State Street. They all were flooded to one degree or another.
Well, all of the roads across the Pearl, with the exception of Old Brandon Road, are still open. It’s not under water.
Ironically, above the dam, the Barnett Reservoir itself floats blissfully as if it were just any other summer day. The Rez was not built for flood control. But as a dependable water source for Jackson and for recreation. The Rez folks can mitigate floods to a degree by the amount of water they can store, balanced with what must be released to ensure the integrity of the dam.
The Mighty Pearl. Occasionally, it lives up it its name. Hopefully, it will be a while before we see it this high again.