Tuesday Pearl River flood update for Columbia

By CHARLIE SMITH,

Columbia and Marion County aren't expected to face the catastrophic flooding from the Pearl River that Jackson has experienced this past week, although officials are making preparations to face whatever the river brings.

Mayor Justin McKenzie said Tuesday morning that the latest projections are for the river to crest at 24.9 feet late Saturday night to Sunday morning.

At that level most of the flooding would be confined to backwaters near the Pearl. An estimated 385 addresses in Marion County, 75 of them in Columbia, would be flooded at 25 feet, the mayor said.

City and school districts officials received a briefing from the National Weather Service Tuesday morning via teleconference. Meteorologist Anna Wolverton said rain is expected today through Thursday followed by a dry period on Friday and Saturday.

Police Chief Michael Kelly said the good news for Columbia is that no rain is forecasted for when the river crests here.

The biggest threat from flooding would be from flash floods if strong rains came at the same time the river was up and thus already filled up the city's storm drains, which empty into the Pearl. Unable to flow into the river at that point, the water would pour throughout downtown. However, that is not anticipated to happen barring a change in the forecast.

McKenzie gave first responders areas in the city to keep an eye on. Those include Horseshoe Bend, North Main Street at the bridge behind The Deck, Old Foxworth Road and behind City Hall. He said at 25 feet that Old Foxworth Road would probably flood, sending water onto businesses like Beal's Collision Center.

McKenzie said the waters are rising slowly, giving time to react.

The river was at 21.6 feet Tuesday morning at Columbia. It crested two weeks ago at 22.8 feet. The anticipated crest of 24.9 this weekend would be well below the record of 27.8 in 1979, when city officials cut the U.S. 98 Bypass to allow floodwaters to flow south away from the city rather than into downtown businesses.

That level of problem is not anticipated this time around.

"We're not expecting Main Street to flood," McKenzie said.

Kelly said overall officials are anticipating the problems to be minor but are monitoring the situation and making appropriate preparations.