Rankin Co. officials stress ‘turn around, don’t drown’ as flood waters cover streets

Rankin Co.officials warn areas just outside predicted flood zones

RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - The wheels of a high water rescue vehicle are about chest high on a short person.

They’re important, though, because those vehicles are what Rankin County will use to go out and rescue people in the flooding. There are also boats that are being held at different places around the county. Both of those are integral at a time like this because even though they say “turn around don’t drown all the time,” there are still people who try to do make it across flooded roads.

Most fatalities during flooding are people who were in their vehicles, officials said. That’s why places like the Old Brandon Road Bridge are dangerous, even if they seem to be just under a few inches of water.

At a February 14, 2020 press conference.
At a February 14, 2020 press conference. (Source: .)

“If you can’t see the road because water is over the road, that is an absolutely dangerous situation," said Rankin EOC Director Mike Word. "You may go six feet across that road and the entire culvert may be washed out, and you think you’re ok, you may think you’re only driving through six inches of water, but you get to the center of that and the culvert is washed out and now you’ve just dropped into a 20-foot ditch and you’re headed down the Pearl River. Chances of survival? Slim to none.”

Word said his biggest concern -- though there are plenty -- is the accuracy of the prediction maps.

“In our minds, 38 feet today could be more of an impact than 38 feet was in 1979,” he said.

He advised those who live even just outside the predicted flood zones to make other arrangements as soon as possible, just to be safe.

“So we have had 40 years of sedimentation build up and filling in of this Pearl River Basin below the Ross Barnett Reservoir, we have had a tremendous reduction in our agricultural zones, we’ve had a tremendous influx of housetops and businesses, asphalt and concrete,” he said. “Pay really close attention to what the water is doing, and we strongly recommend that if you are on the outlying edges of this that you begin to make preparations to seek shelter elsewhere. At this point there are no shelters that are open in Rankin County.”

Rankin EOC alone has 13 high water vehicles ready to deploy, along with some boats. The Sheriff’s Department has their own fleet of boats as well. But Word said officials would really rather not have to use them.

Rankin County officials are directing people to find family or friends to stay with, or to find a hotel or other arrangements since there are no shelters open in the county. The tornado safe room has restrictions on how long it can house people, and the flooding is expected to displace people for longer than allowed.

In addition to people evacuating their homes, many businesses have already started to pack up their inventory in order to keep it from being damaged as the water rises.

If you need sandbags, Rankin County EOC can provide them for you. For locations and pickup points, call Rankin EOC at 601-825-1499.

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