CLARKSDALE, Miss. – Most of Clarksdale is dry, but a handful of neighborhoods and streets are sitting under about a foot of water for the third straight day this week.
The problems began Tuesday, when rain caused the Big Sunflower River to rise seven feet in just 12 hours, according to National Weather Service data. Excess water from the river quickly found its way to low-lying areas nearby, including Grace Baptist Church.
Pastor Robert Byrd says the church, which he founded just six months ago, has been flooded since Wednesday. WREG’s Luke Jones toured the church by boat and observed about a foot of water inside.
“We didn’t think it was gonna happen, and then once it started rising we tried to make preparation for it, but it didn’t do no good,” said Byrd.
The church of only nine members is not insured, and Byrd estimates it will cost around $20,000 to make repairs. But he’s not fazed.
“As long as we’ve got faith in God, you know, everything’s possible so we’re not gonna worry about,” he said.
City officials say no homes flooded this week, but water came awfully close to some on Pearson Street, about a quarter of a mile from the river. City-operated pumps worked furiously Friday to redirect water away from neighborhoods.
“This has happened more and more frequently here lately,” said Terry Smith, whose engineering firm has been contracted by the city.
Smith said work on a levee which would separate Pearson Street from the river would have begun this month, but the recent rainfall has led to delays.
“There’s really nothing you can do once a 12-inch rain starts. You can’t get out there and stop and prevent this water from getting in here until it dries up,” said Smith.
Smith said construction on the levee will now begin as soon as the water recedes and that the entire project should complete sometime next year. He says Pearson Street should be protected by the end of this year.
As of Friday afternoon, the Big Sunflower River was just shy of its all-time highest level reached in 2019.