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Flash floods swamp Mississippi

Nine-year-old Payne Jones digs out a hole at the home of friends Carter and Wailes Kemp at Mulvihill and Drummond streets Thursday after more than 2 inches of rain fell. The boys said they were making a muddy hideout.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[2/6/04]A lingering storm system that drenched Mississippi with Gulf moisture crept out of the state, but not before it flooded streets, roads and neighborhoods from Natchez to the Tennessee line and across the center of the state.

Vicksburg and Warren County experienced few of the problems other areas of the state had, said L.W. Callaway III, director of the Warren County Emergency Management Office. Although the area received 2.88 inches of rain between 7 Wednesday morning and 7 today, none of the area creeks and streams rose out of their banks.

“Other than a few trees down, all we got was a good drenching,” he said, adding there were enough gaps between spells of rain for the runoff to move on downstream before more came.

Jerry Uzzle, owner of Jerry’s Fish Market at 2701 Halls Ferry Road, said the street through Marcus Bottom did not flood even though he fears a city project to install a median along four blocks of the thoroughfare will lead to it.

“It run off pretty good (last night) because it can run across the street, but if they put that in it’ll flood then,” he said.

City officials have said that drainage was considered in the plans and that it will not create more flooding.

No injuries were reported during the storms that began Wednesday night, but Gov. Haley Barbour said the situation had deteriorated to the point Thursday to warrant his declaring a state of emergency in areas hit the hardest.

The heavy rains prompted a flash flood alert until this morning for about two dozen counties in Central, East and Southeast areas.

The state of emergency declaration will “ensure that our citizens are well taken care of and that their needs are met as quickly as possible,” Barbour said.

Barbour said all available state resources had been mobilized and that state agencies were standing by to lend assistance to local governments if needed.

In his declaration, Barbour listed several reports of damage, ranging from flash flooding to downed trees and power lines, in Adams, Copiah, Lincoln, Pike, Rankin, Simpson, Tate and Yazoo counties.

In Rankin County, Barbour said three subdivisions in the Richland area had been flooded. In Jackson, two television stations broke into regular programming to carry live reports as firefighters braved the strong current of a flooded canal to verify that no one was trapped inside a partially submerged vehicle.

Forecasters said much improved conditions were on tap for today.

While there were numerous reports of radar-detected tornadoes and wind damage to timber, the only reported tornado damage was in Lauderdale County.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said a mobile home in Collinsville was destroyed Thursday afternoon by a twister. The weather service earlier said the spotters had reported a tornado on the ground in rural Newton County near Hickory.

“We’ve had heavy rains, and its been quite gusty out there this afternoon,” said William Broach, who works for the town of Hickory.

Broach said that while emergency radio scanners were busy with traffic, he had heard of no damage.

There were reports of flash flooding including overflowing creeks and water across roads from extreme southwest Mississippi across the central counties. Problems moved to the east and south during the afternoon Thursday. Earlier, drenching rains had brought street flooding to areas of the Delta.

Radar estimates indicated up to 3 inches of rain had fallen over these areas Thursday. Additional rainfall of 2 to 3 inches were possible over watch areas Thursday night.

Rankin County was repeatedly hit by strong storms triggering flooding on streets and low areas of Brandon and Pelahatchie. Creek flooding was also reported.

Similar problems were reported elsewhere.

“We’ve seen localized street flooding in both Hazlehurst and Crystal Springs but no reports of damage,” said Jeff Cook, who heads Copiah County’s emergency agency.

A dispatcher at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department reported that office had operated on emergency generators during much of Thursday morning because of power outages in the Brookhaven area.