LAFAYETTE COUNTY, Miss. — The Lafayette County Fire Department asked residents in an area to evacuate Wednesday afternoon as flood warnings were issued in northern Mississippi.
The department said the evacuation was due to a potential levee failure in the Tara Lake area. The order was issued at 2:30 p.m.
By 6, the fire department said residents could return to their homes as the department along with state and local officials were working to provide relief to the dam.
At 3:20, the National Weather Service in Memphis issued a Flash Flood Warning for the Tara Dam below Lake Tara Dam.
Heavy rainfall triggered an emergency action plan for Tara Estates. Officials believed the levee could be strained, and safety officials were called out to evaluate.
They found the levee’s drain system was corroded and on the verge of bursting.
“When water was flowing through it actually was going through the outside of the pipe and had potential to carry dirt away, making a very large hole. Eventually, the lake could fail and breach and flow through that hole,” said Willie McKercher with Mississippi’s Department of Environmental Quality.
They found the levee’s drain system was corroded and was on the verge of bursting. County and fire department employees eased the strain on the faulty drain system, eliminating the threat of a massive flood.
“There was no active failure of the dam. The dam is still intact. It just has that one issue there around that outlet pipe,” McKercher said.
Levees like the one in Tara Estates have a 25-30 year shelf life, and the neighborhood knew this one is near the end of its cycle.
McKercher said the residents were already planning on fixing it anyway, and already had a pipe on site. A replacement drain will add another 30 years or more of service, he hoped.
Heavy rainfall across multiple days has left some parts of the Mid-South dealing with rare flooding, the type of flooding some residents have never seen before.
In Oxford, Mississippi, neighborhoods are soaked and roads have been washed out completely.
“I’ve been down here 10 years and I’ve never seen it this bad before,” Oxford resident Jeff Hillman said. “When I left for breakfast, there’s a creek that goes under the road. It was totally flooded, and was actually coming out over the road.”
Even the creatures that are used to this amount of water seem to be struggling. Our crews caught video of a fish flopping around in a driveway in a Mississippi neighborhood.
The National Weather Service is predicting the rain will continue into Thursday before the area begins to dry out Friday.
Alerts have been sent out across northern Mississippi, eastern Arkansas and southern Tennessee, warning that this week’s flooding is a dangerous and life-threatening situation.
Residents can stay safe by staying inside and off the roads, unless travel is absolutely necessary.
If you haven’t experienced flash flooding yet, you still could in the next day or so, experts encourage caution through the end of the week.