Louisiana and Mississippi cope with heavy rains, flooding
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Friday. Some 6 to 10 inches of rain fell over the last 24 hours and an additional 4 to 6 inches was possible Saturday afternoon.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Moderate to heavy rain continued to fall Saturday over southern Louisiana, where at least two people died and dozens had to be rescued from waist-high water that engulfed their homes. Mississippi and Alabama were also struggling with the effects of heavy precipitation.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for southwest Louisiana until 2:15 p.m. Saturday. Forecaster Donald Jones in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said the storm system was drifting slowly west from southeast Louisiana to an area along the central Gulf coast.
Jones said 6 to 10 inches of rain fell over the last 24 hours and an additional 4 to 6 inches was possible Saturday afternoon.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Friday and was to hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The flooding situation also affected the Louisiana Governor's Mansion, which has a flooded basement.
WAFB-TV reports the governor's family has been relocated until the situation is resolved.
A spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office said one man died Friday after slipping into a flooded ditch near the city of Zachary. Casey Rayborn Hicks identified the victim as 68-year-old William Mayfield. His body was found about noon Friday.
Dr. William "Beau" Clark, the parish coroner, ruled the death "an accidental drowning."
A second victim was found in St. Helena Parish, where crews pulled a body from a submerged pickup on Louisiana Highway 10.
State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning confirmed they found a man in his 50s inside a marooned Chevrolet pickup truck about 7 p.m. Friday. The body was turned over to the parish coroner's office. His name has not been released, but Browning said he's believed to be from the area.
Meanwhile, crews are continuing to search for possibly another washed away vehicle after residents reported a missing person.
Browning said the area is sparsely populated and authorities only came across the truck after earlier successfully rescuing the driver of an 18-wheeler whose rig was pushed off the roadway.
Numerous rivers in southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi were overflowing their banks and threatening widespread flooding after extreme rainfall that began late Thursday.
In a 24-hour period, Baton Rouge reported as much as 11.34 inches of rain fell compared with 2.34 inches at New Orleans' international airport in Kenner. A weather service meteorologist said one weather observer reported 17.09 inches of rainfall in Livingston.
The Comite River near Baton Rouge and Amite River near Denham Springs, both in Louisiana, were predicted to set record crests over the weekend. Forecaster Alek Krautmann said both rivers could flood many houses in suburban areas near Baton Rouge.
The Tickfaw River, just south of the Mississippi state line in Liverpool, Louisiana, was already at the highest level ever recorded at 9 a.m. Friday.
In southwest Mississippi, rescues occurred in Amite and Wilkinson counties.
Leroy Hansford, his wife and stepson were among those rescued near Gloster.
Hansford, 62, said waters from Beaver Creek, which is normally more than 400 feet away from his house, rose quickly overnight. He said another stepson who lives nearby alerted him.
"We woke up and the water kept on coming," Hansford said. "It came up to my waist." His wife told Hansford that it's the highest she's seen the creek in the 48 years she's lived there.
In Crosby, Mississippi, more than 50 people flooded out of a neighborhood will be housed at a shelter in Natchez.
Wilkinson County Chancery Clerk Thomas Tolliver said an apartment complex and surrounding houses in the town were flooded after 10 inches of rain fell. Authorities said they expect to shelter displaced Crosby residents at least until Monday.
According to WWL-TV, the Bogue Chitto River is expected to crest at 18 feet, and deputies are going door-to-door in Bogue Chitto Heights telling residents 'be prepared to leave.' In Tangipahoa Parish, president Robby Miller instructed residents living near the Tangipahoa River to leave their homes and find a safer place to stay until the water recedes, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
The flooding was so bad Friday in Walker, Louisiana, that caskets were unearthed in St. Mark's Cemetery. Photos posted by the Walker Police Department on Facebook showed at least two bright yellow caskets floating in floodwaters.
"Virtually every road now in the city has some kind of water problem," Central, Louisiana, mayor Jr. Shelton told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "We've never seen anything like this before."
The same system affecting parts of Louisiana and Mississippi also dumped heavy rainfall on coastal Alabama this week.
Weather service meteorologist Da'Vel Johnson said Saturday that Gulf Shores on the Alabama coast got 7.45 inches of rain from Monday through 7 a.m. Friday. Dauphin Island got 5.26 inches during the same period. Johnson said the storm system had mostly moved away from Alabama by Saturday.