PEARL, Miss. (AP) — Large fans hummed noisily Thursday to try to dry out the carpet at The Exchange Church, a day after storms rapidly dumped several inches of rain and pushed water into the one-story brick building in central Mississippi.
Bryant May is lead pastor of the Southern Baptist congregation in the Jackson suburb of Pearl. He said it was the second time in four years the church flooded. The church will conduct online services this weekend, and May said he hopes the building will be in working order soon after that.
“The good news in it is that we have a little bit of experience — that’s good news/bad news — so we have a little bit of a game plan on how to attack it,” May said Thursday.
Weather radar showed heavy rainfall Thursday in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and in the Florida panhandle.
Several flash flood warnings were issued, and the Mississippi Department of Transportation reported water covering highways Thursday from the central part of the state down to the Gulf Coast. Flowing water washed away part of a state highway in rural Newton County, between Jackson and Meridian.
The National Weather Service predicted the Pearl River near Jackson, Mississippi, will crest early next week at nearly the level it reached during flooding in 2020. Emergency officials said residents in low-lying areas near the river should prepare for the possibility of evacuating in the next several days.
After Wednesday’s deluge caused creeks to overflow, law enforcement officers carried toddlers out of a flooded day care center in Florence, Mississippi, south of Jackson. The Rankin County Sheriff’s Department posted video on Facebook of deputies walking through brown, knee-deep water to take children to an elevated truck, placing them gently on benches.
Rankin County sheriff’s deputies also helped move more than 40 residents out of a flooded nursing home Wednesday in nearby Brandon.
Tony Banks said Thursday that when he returned to his apartment in the Jackson suburb of Flowood after work Wednesday, the parking lot was knee-deep in water. He said a creek overflowed, flooding some cars and trucks. Banks said he caught a fish near the vehicles.
“He was flopping around in the parking lot and I grabbed his mouth,” said Banks, 35. He said he tossed the bass back into the water.
In Alabama, vehicles traveling along flooded roads created boat-like wakes on low-lying Dauphin Island, a popular beach community off the coast, but police said the water was not deep enough Thursday morning to pose a major threat. Flooding was likely across southwestern Alabama through nightfall, forecasters said, and Mississippi temporarily closed a welcome station on Interstate 10 because of flooding.
A few schools around Mobile, Alabama, dismissed early because of flooding or power outages. The National Weather Service said rain was falling at a rate of as much as 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) an hour along the coast, and roads and parking lots were flooded in Foley on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.
Joy Lester owns a second-hand store in Pearl, Mississippi, near The Exchange Church. She said she will have to throw away most of the couches, dining room sets, and inventory that was soaked by flooding.
“All of this is just a waste. It’s got to go,” Lester said as she surveyed the damage Thursday.
Three Mississippi cities set one-day rainfall records Wednesday, the weather service said. Jackson received just over 5 inches (12.7 centimeters), Meridian received 4.6 inches (11.7 centimeters) and Vicksburg received 2.9 inches (7.4 centimeters).
On Wednesday, Jackson also surpassed its previous record for rainfall for the month of August, at 11.57 inches (29.4 centimeters). The previous record for the month was 11.51 inches (29.2 centimeters) in 2008, the weather service said.
The National Weather Service said flooding was expected near several rivers in central and southern Mississippi. The Pearl River was above flood stage in the Jackson area Thursday and was expected to continue rising. That means streams and creeks are unable to drain into the river, and water could threaten homes and businesses.
Associated Press writer Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.