Recent torrential rains that pounded Louisiana left roads impassable, submerging cars and forcing people from their homes overnight.
The Bossier City area across the Red River from Shreveport took the brunt of the storm that began saturating northern Louisiana late on March 8. At least three people have died, and mandatory evacuations have been enforced by rescuers using large trucks able to negotiate the high waters.
At the Pecan Valley Estates mobile home park, Sam Cassidy and his wife were the last holdouts. The murky waters surrounded Cassidy’s home and his neighbors had already left. He said he would leave if the water started to get inside but he was worried about looters.
He said God might take it all with the flood but he wouldn’t allow anyone else to. Thursday morning, with waters creeping up his front steps, he stood in waist-deep water watching his neighbors evacuate. An alligator swam by. By night it looked like a “horror movie.”
“We were the only two here,” he said. “It was pitch black, the houses were empty. It’s been an adventure.”
Residents in two additional subdivisions in the region were ordered to leave Friday, while the Louisiana Downs racetrack was under a mandatory evacuation, said Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Davis. A flood warning was in effect for the Red Chute Bayou, where levees built to prevent water from overflowing were at risk.
The southeast of the state started to get battered by rain Thursday and Friday.
In Tangipahoa Parish, Sheriff Daniel Edwards said close to 50 roads were closed due to high water and an estimated 300 to 400 people had to evacuate.
Flash flood waters in many populated areas appeared to be receding by Friday afternoon, although more rain could change that.
To the east, in St. Tammany Parish officials said three local rivers were reaching historic levels and would continue to rise. They encouraged people in homes nearby to decide before dark whether to evacuate.
Thaddeus Jackson, 37, said water was already entering his two-story apartment in Hammond when he arrived home from work at around 2:30 a.m. He tried to protect his furniture, then he and his wife and children went to bed.
“When I woke up this morning, the rescue people were banging on the door, telling us to get out,” said Jackson.
Further to the east in Washington Parish, swollen rivers and creeks have led to widespread flooding, prompting rescues from scores of homes.
Mike Haley, a chief deputy for the parish’s sheriff, said dozens of homes have been flooded. The Coast Guard even had to send a helicopter from New Orleans to rescue someone trapped on a roof.
There were no reports of serious injuries or deaths, said Haley, but he noted that the flooding was worse than what the parish saw during Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
The severe weather system that has dumped rain across the state has been feeding off of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, said Frank Revitte, from the National Weather Service in Slidell.
On Tuesday night and Wednesday, the system dumped 15-20 inches over north Louisiana before moving south where it dumped about 10-15 inches of rain Thursday and Friday in some areas — in just 3 to 4 hours — Rivette said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards traveled to northern Louisiana Friday to assess the situation after issuing a statewide declaration of emergency Thursday.
The Louisiana National Guard deployed roughly 400 people along with 30 to 35 high-water vehicles and 15 to 18 boats to assist in search-and-rescue operations in north Louisiana.
A section of Interstate 20 east of Bossier City remained closed and a portion of I-49 was closed south of Shreveport.
All of southeast Louisiana remained under a flash flood watch Friday as bands of heavy rain moved over the area.
The storms that have swamped Louisiana have also hammered other states in the region:
McGill reported from Natalbany, Louisiana. Associated Press writers Bill Fuller in New Orleans and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.