Three people have died and one remains missing as torrential rains continue to inundate both Louisiana and southern Mississippi, flooding thousands of homes and prompting thousands of water rescues.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Sunday that more than 7,000 people had been rescued by all participating agencies and volunteers since the flooding outbreak began.
“This is a serious event,” Edwards said. “It is ongoing. It is not over.”
The Associated Press reported Sunday that as many as 5,000 people were in shelters as a result of the widespread flooding.
The downpours have sent at least six river gauges to record levels in Louisiana. This includes the Amite River, which exceeded its previous record by over six feet in Magnolia, and by over four feet in Denham Springs.
Here’s the latest on this flooding event.
Rescue Efforts In Full Force
Mike Steele, communications director for the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told weather.com on Sunday that there was a huge spike in flood rescues overnight, mostly in the eastern half of Baton Rouge into Denham Springs.
“It’s kind of an all hands on deck,” he said in a phone interview. “We still have a situation where motorists are stranded on I-12, and it remains closed between here and St. Tammany Parish, so the whole interstate system from Baton Rouge to that location is still closed.”
Steele said the Louisiana State Police are n the process of airlifting supplies to those stranded along the interstate.
State police posted on Facebook that hundreds of cars were stranded on “islands” along the interstate in eastern Livingston Parish. Steele said some flooded spots were too deep for high water vehicles to traverse, while other spots littered with cars made it dangerous to attempt a helicopter landing.
Steele said more than 1,000 have been flooded in Baton Rouge, and that number that is expected to climb. In Livingston, more than 1,000 homes have been flooding, along with 200 in St. Helena Parish, and 500 or more in Tangipahoa Parish. Apart from residential damage, Steele said they are also monitoring nursing homes and hospitals in the area that could be impacted by rising water.
Steele said the Louisiana Air National Guard (LANG) has about 200 full-time employees working, plus about 750 guardsmen that have been deployed, a number that could climb to 1,000 soon. Additionally, he said 160 high water vehicles were in use as of last night, along with 35 watercraft, which brought the LANG rescue total to more than 3,500 people and 166 pets as of Sunday morning.
As more rain fell and floodwaters rose last night in the Baton Rouge area, Steele said buses were used to move people out of their communities. Steele then said as the water rapidly swelled, rescue efforts had to speed up with it.
“The water came up really fast overnight and we have more rain coming in now,” he said. “It got so bad, I could hear concern on the scanners saying we needed to move the buses out of there fast.”
Rescue efforts will persist into Sunday, but Steele pointed out that motorists need to be aware of the current conditions and avoid site-seeing amid storm damage to avoid putting a further strain on state resources.
Three Dead in Louisiana
Flooding triggered by the heavy rainfall has killed at least three people.
On Friday, 68-year-old William Mayfield drowned trying to escape floodwaters near Zachary, Louisiana, as heavy rains piled up water in the northeastern regions of the state, NBC News reported.
“We were in the trailer just watching TV and then the water just started coming up,” Vernon Drummond, Mayfield’s roommate, told the station. “We were walking out and he slipped and fell. He went under the water. We tried to save him, but we couldn’t.”
Rescue crews in Zachary recovered Mayfield’s body Friday morning, according to WAFB. Drummond says Mayfield is originally from Los Angeles and does not have any family in the area.
East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Management Director JoAnne Moreau told CNN that the body of an elderly man was recovered. The victim was being helped through floodwaters when he slipped into a ditch.
The body of a 40-year-old woman from Amite was recovered Saturday from the Tickfaw River. The woman, her husband and the woman’s mother-in-law were driving on a state highway Friday when their car was swept off the road. The woman’s husband and mother-in-law clung to a tree for hours before they were rescued Saturday.
A man is still missing after he and his son were swept away by rushing waters in Tangipahoa Parish, CNN also reports.
Police Chief Darrell Martin told CNN that the son has been located.
Carey Chauvin, assistant chief administrative officer for the city of Baton Rouge, told weather.com that the damage is widespread throughout the parish and that search and rescue efforts were still ongoing.
“We just ask people to be vigilant since this is such a major event … anybody that doesn’t need to be out should stay in,” he said in a phone interview.
Small Town Devastated, State of Emergency Issued in Mississippi
Four counties in Mississippi have been placed under a state of emergency, according to a release from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
“I want to make sure all Mississippians that were forced out of their homes by this flooding are taken care of,” said Bryant in the release. “This state of emergency will ensure state resources are available to all local governments that need help.”
Mississippi officials say the heavy rain and flooding has affected almost all of the 342 people living in the small town of Crosby.
According to Wilkinson County Chancery Clerk Thomas Tolliver Jr., residents left their homes Friday as the town was inundated by floodwaters. Some people were able to leave on their own, but others had to be rescued. Most were sent to shelters in Natchez.
Tolliver said most of the buildings in Crosby sustained water damage.
Water rescues have also been reported in Centreville, Mississippi, according to the NWS.