A train is derailed and roads washed away after torrential rain clobbers parts of Mississippi
By Nouran Salahieh, CNN
(CNN) -- Wading through thigh-high waters, dozens of nursing home residents held onto a rope stretched across a flooded parking lot Wednesday as they were evacuated from a Mississippi retirement home.
The residents, helped by firefighters, volunteers and state troopers, passed submerged cars as they departed on school buses from the Peach Tree Village assisted living facility in Brandon, about a 12-mile drive east of downtown Jackson.
The catalyst was a slow-moving weather system that drenched the South with record rainfall, triggering flash floods that stranded residents, washed away roads, derailed a train, crept into homes and forced numerous rescues.
The rainfall prompted the National Weather Service to issue a "flash flood emergency" Wednesday for nearly 300,000 people in Jackson and nearby communities.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba called for voluntary evacuations in areas that are at risk of flooding after Wednesday's heavy rains. On Thursday morning, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District increased the discharge from Barnett Reservoir, a move the district warned would put water on Jackson streets.
Lumumba asked communities that could potentially be impacted to prepare ahead.
"We are calling for voluntary evacuation to take place over the course of this time in the areas that are expected to be affected," the mayor said.
Rain piling up quickly led to some flash flooding in southern Mississippi and Alabama, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.
"Once the current round of storms taper off tonight, the threat really lessens," Miller added. While some showers and afternoon thunderstorms remain in the forecast for the next several days, the coverage and intensity compared to the past several days are significantly lower.
Nearly 3 feet of water from a nearby creek rushed into the senior living home, forcing the scramble to get its residents to higher ground, according to Brandon Mayor Butch Lee.
"We can replace the stuff, but the people are out and that is a good thing," John Bilbro, an administrator at Peach Tree Village, told CNN affiliate WAPT. Volunteers were seen rushing out of the retirement home, carrying wheelchairs and walkers.
Rankin County Constable Gary Windham had "seen water rise in this area before, but not like that," he told WAPT.
About 17 miles away, more than 100 children and 15 employees had to be rescued from the Railroad Center Day Care in Florence due to the fast-rising waters, according to the Rankin County Sheriff's Office.
The children, some carried by local police and day care staff, were evacuated into a school bus and high water rescue vehicles that maneuvered through the flood.
Heavy rain Wednesday, combined with an already saturated ground, led to the flooding in Mississippi. And it came as Dallas was recovering from earlier flooding and heavy rainfall that swept away vehicles and resulted in dozens of high-water rescues.
Jackson received more than 8.5 inches from Tuesday to Wednesday, and some areas of Mississippi received more.
Jackson saw 5.05 inches on Wednesday alone, making it the rainiest day in August on record for the city. And Jackson has set a record for the rainiest August on record with seven days still remaining in the month -- 11.57 inches, breaking the previous mark of 11.51 inches set in 2008.
While rainfall isn't expected to be as heavy or widespread Thursday as the last couple of days, more than 5.5 million people still were under flood watches Thursday morning from eastern Texas to Alabama -- including Jackson and Mississippi's southern half, the weather service said.
Some locations in that area could see 2-4 inches, and with the ground already saturated, more flooding is possible.
Roads buckle, train derails under heavy rains
The flooding caused widespread street closures and damaged roads throughout the region.
In Newton County, Highway 489 buckled, creating a gaping hole into which a truck appeared to have fallen.
"The highway is completely washed away due to flood water," Mississippi Highway Patrol tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
The weather service had been warning residents not to drive on flooded roadways, saying that even a foot of water could wash away a small vehicle.
"If you cannot see the road, you have no idea if it even exists still under the water. Water can collapse the roadbed, leaving nothing underneath the water," the weather service warned.
As heavy rains pounded the region, the ground gave way under some tracks in Brandon and two pressurized train cars carrying carbon dioxide detached from a train and rolled into a 20-foot ditch, the mayor said.
Brandon officials said the derailment wasn't a hazard to nearby neighborhoods.
There also were multiple reports of water rushing into homes and businesses.
"Only thing I got is the stuff I got on now. The rest of my stuff is all messed up," Carthage resident S.L. Wilder told WLBT.
"I haven't seen nothing like this and I've been here for 21 years," another Carthage resident, Abraham Evans, told the station.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of John Bilbro, an administrator at Peach Tree Village, and the name of the assisted living facility.
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