GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - As floodwaters rise along multiple South Mississippi rivers, several people have had to be rescued from rising floodwaters this week.
What started as a great vacation in South Mississippi for one group of people quickly became a nightmare after they became stranded in floodwaters overnight Thursday.
The 12 men, who are visiting from Texas, rented an AirBNB vacation home in Biloxi River Estates, which is just inside the Gulfport city limits. The raised house overlooks the river, which rapidly began rising Thursday following heavy rains across the Gulf Coast.
The group of survivors were taken to a local hospital to be checked out for injuries and are all expected to recover.
Gulfport Fire Department’s swift water rescue team helped get those people to safety.
Early Thursday morning, another group of visitors to the Coast had to be rescued from a different vacation home in the Riverside area of D’Iberville. There were seven adults and three toddlers at the home.
Rescue workers said that floodwaters reached five feet and surrounded the house, which made it difficult for the family to enter and exit the area, despite the house being raised on stilts.
The fire department had to use a five-ton truck to reach the family. The family said it was best to call for help since it was surrounded by water.
Another rescue call came in off County Farm Road in west Harrison County overnight Thursday. According to Chief Pat Sullivan with Harrison County Fire and Rescue Services, the initial call that came in to authorities was a welfare concern over two individuals. When the first responders arrived, they found the two older people in the water clinging to trees.
“At first, they couldn’t see the people but they could hear them hollering for help,” said Sullivan. “They made their way around where they could finally locate where they were at and they were clinging to trees. The effort at that immediate time was to get assistance from Gulfport Fire Department with backup from Biloxi Fire Department’s swift water teams.”
As rescue crews began gearing up and making a plan to help the men, they knew they had to act fast.
“In this case, we knew that they could suffer potentially from hypothermia so they were able to get a kayak and get close enough to one of the victims to get them a life preserver on,” said Sullivan.
Within a matter of seconds of getting a life preserver on the stranded man, he went into the water and the crew had to make an immediate rescue to pull him out.
“Once we got deep enough, we were able to make it in there and make it to the victim that was hugging a tree, and his condition was pretty bad,” said Battalion Chief Chad Bryant with Gulfport Fire Department. “He was shaking pretty bad, hypothermic. We were able to get him back in the boat and get him to dry land.”
In Jackson County, a man was found safe Friday just before noon after becoming swept away by floodwaters in the Pascagoula River Thursday night. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department flotilla began searching for the man around 7 p.m.
The man, who lives near Cedar Creek Estates in the northern part of the county, was found alive and in good shape Friday morning. According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, the man was checked out on the scene by Acadian and was not in need of further medical attention.
When floodwaters rise like the Gulf Coast has seen over the last few days, it’s dangerous for not only anyone who may find themselves stranded in it, but also for the rescue crews who have to figure out how to get everyone back to dry ground safely.
“The biggest thing here is that it’s shallow water moving pretty fast across there and it’s the unknown terrain on the bottom wading in,” said Bryant. “One wrong step and you can actually be sucked under and be dragged downstream.”
In situations like this, working together with other agencies is imperative, said Chief Sullivan.
“By the cooperation of all of these agencies together, these people are safe,” said Sullivan.
A Flash Flood Watch remains in effect for all of South Mississippi, with additional rainfall totals through Saturday expected to be 2-4 inches and even higher amounts possible in isolated areas. Do not enter or cross flowing water or water of unknown depth. As the sayings go, turn around, don’t drown, and stay away or be swept away.