‘It’s extremely stressful’: Choctaw Road residents want the city’s help in addressing flash floods

‘It’s extremely stressful’: Choctaw Road residents want the city’s help in addressing flash floods
A view from Dr. Scott Crawford's home early Saturday morning. (Source: Scott Crawford)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Dr. Colibri Jenkins has the routine down to a science.

First, it’s the pumps.

Then, it’s the wet vac.

After that, it’s two rounds of basic mopping.

“Then, you want to sanitize,” she said. “You do it two or three times so you can walk through your house and not be fearful.”

It’s what the Fondren doctor does every time heavy rains cause water to back up into her Choctaw Road home.

For Jenkins and other residents along the street, flooding has become an all-too-common occurrence.

Late Friday and early Saturday, after nearly a year without a flood, storms ripped across the metro area bringing the neighborhood’s dry streak to an end.

Jenkins got four inches of water on the first floor of her home, located at 511 Choctaw.

Meanwhile, Dr. Scott Crawford, who lives at 525 Choctaw, watched as more than two feet of water ran under his house and into his garage.

“It destroyed my fence. It collapsed my retaining wall,” he said. “My concern is that eventually ... it will get inside my house and ruin my electric wheelchair and everything I own.”

Crawford shows how floodwaters got into his garage following severe storms early Saturday morning.
Crawford shows how floodwaters got into his garage following severe storms early Saturday morning. (Source: Scott Crawford)

Crawford purchased his home in December 2006. Since then, he’s seen, on average, two or three flash floods a year.

In early 2020, there were three flash floods in rapid succession.

After that, the city of Jackson said it would apply for a FEMA grant to relocate Choctaw residents to safer areas.

However, those efforts have yet to be realized, as the city has had to respond to numerous other disasters.

Shortly after meeting with city leaders, for instance, officials with the Lumumba administration had to shift gears to deal with the Pearl River Flood.

That happened in February 2020. Approximately 500 homes were affected when the Pearl rose to roughly seven feet above its flood stage.

Then, there was the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ironically, Choctaw didn’t flood during the 2020 flood, even as much of nearby Northeast Jackson was inundated.

“Our issue is flash flooding, not the river,” Crawford said. “Eubanks Creek was backing up during that flood. Had we gotten any significant rain while the Pearl was backed up, it would have been terrible.

“There was literally nowhere for the water to go.”

Choctaw is located in Fondren behind the shopping center that used to be home to the Meadowbrook Road McRae’s. Eubanks Creek runs behind the neighborhood. Flooding has gotten worse there as development has increased upstream.

Jenkins has lost hope that the city is going to address the problem, saying that the aperture under the North State Street bridge was not widened during recent rehabilitation projects along the roadway.

She said the city likely won’t spend any more money on the bridge, because it could impact the work that has already been done there.

“I can’t in good faith sell my home because of the issue it causes,” she said, referring to the flooding. “I’m not happy or safe living here because of the continual flooding.”

Floodwaters aside, she is more concerned about the raw sewage that gets into her home and yard each time waters rise.

“Every time it floods, there is a spillage of raw sewage … that gets into my house (and) it’s all over the street until it rains again.”

A manhole is located on the street directly in front of her home. Every time flooding occurs, she sees water bubble up from that manhole.

“It gets into every room on the bottom floor,” Jenkins said. “We mopped for hours – for a least five hours. Getting the sludge off the floor requires at least two sets of mopping.”

Her seven-year-old son is equally frustrated because he can’t go outside to play until another rain washes away what the flood brought in.

“It’s a health hazard,” she said. “It’s irritating to flood, but you get angry when you know it’s a health hazard. It’s not just rainwater, it’s raw sewage.”

Crawford and Jenkins have reached out to the city multiple times to discuss the problem.

“They told me there’s no way to reliably guarantee that it won’t flood, even if they were to modify the creek,” Crawford said. “This is what I was told.”

As for the FEMA grant, both say the city officials tell them little progress has been made.

“The last plan we heard, and this was more than a year ago, was that they were going to get a FEMA grant to buy out our homes and relocate us,” Crawford said.

“Since then, I’ve followed up and they keep telling me that there’s been one crisis after another and they haven’t executed the plan,” he said. “I even found a good house I wanted to buy, but they never followed through to get the grant to my knowledge.”

Crawford, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and must use a wheelchair, needs a home that has easy access to good sidewalks, bus stops, and other amenities, like grocery stores and pharmacies.

“I would prefer to live here. I love this house. I love this location,” he said. “I don’t want to move. It’s the flooding … it’s extremely stressful.”

Jenkins moved into the Fondren neighborhood in 2014. She purposely relocated to Jackson, rather than Rankin or Madison counties, because she wanted to contribute to the city’s success.

She understands why officials put plans to relocate residents on the backburner. Even so, Jenkins said it’s time for the administration to take action.

“I came to Jackson because I knew (the city) needed to have a tax base to help its infrastructure,” she said. “But when problems like this (occur) and nothing has been done, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.”

WLBT reached out to Jackson Director of Communications Michelle Atoa, but she was not immediately available for comment.

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