NOAA 2000-224
Contact: Susan Weaver


The National Weather Service warns that widespread flooding, including river flooding along some six rivers, could seriously damage farms and present safety risks to citizens in parts of the southern United States.

A line of thunderstorms, with large rainfall amounts from four to ten inches, caused flash flooding and river flooding in parts of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Flood crests as high as 10-15 feet above flood stage occurred on the Pearl (Miss.), Big Black (Miss.) and Tombigbee rivers (Ala.), impacting agricultural lands, livestock and equipment. Major flooding is taking place on the Big Sunflower River in west central Mississippi and is expected to continue into the weekend. Major flooding also began earlier this week on the Big Black River north of Jackson, Miss., and will continue through the weekend. The NWS Climate Prediction Center predicts above normal rainfall in this area through next week.

"Floods are one of the greatest disasters known to mankind, causing almost $4 billion in damages and claiming over 100 lives per year," stated John J. Kelly, Jr., NWS director. "Flood fatalities, however, are often avoidable if people pay attention to weather forecasts and avoid flood areas." As little as two feet of water can float an average car, and, while it may appear that water is not deep enough to cause problems, there is almost no way of knowing if the roadbed itself has been eroded or undermined. "Avoid driving through water, no matter how benign it may look," warns Kelly. "Don't gamble with your life."

Kelly's message was echoed by Robert Latham, Jr., director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. "People should proceed with extreme caution when approaching flooded areas because you don't know the condition of the roadbed or the strength of the water," Latham said. "We have experienced widespread and heavy rainfall which can cause creeks and tributaries to overflow their bounds. Don't take chances to save a little time; just turn around and take another route."

Latham also cautioned, "Stay in touch with changing weather conditions through NOAA Weather Radio, which can warn of impending danger 24 hours a day. NOAA Weather Radios save lives, and should be as common as smoke detectors in your home."

Many areas in the southern U.S. have suffered severe drought conditions over the past several years, as a result of La Niña weather conditions. The current heavy rains may bring some short term relief to the drought situation in northern Alabama, northern Louisiana, northwest Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, and may prove beneficial in mitigating near-term drought conditions in other parts of the south. However, NWS forecasters warn longer term precipitation deficits remain in large parts of the southern U.S. "Despite heavy rains in these areas, the drought situation remains largely unchanged in the southern states (southern Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and southern Georgia), while the situation is growing worse in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana," stated Ants Leetmaa, director of the Climate Prediction Center. "On balance, this region is still getting less rainfall than normal."

The National Weather Service is an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, dedicated to protecting lives and property through the timely issuance of weather, water and climate forecasts and warnings.

Some useful NOAA web sites for monitoring flooding are:

Office of Hydrology homepage

NWS hydrologic services

Floods, flood guidance and terminology

River Watch