BOSSIER CITY, La. – Cars were submerged by water, residents forced to flee their homes with housecats and birds in tow, and the Louisiana National Guard and others rescued people by boat and in big military trucks as torrential rains Wednesday drenched parts of Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas with nearly a foot of rain.
Three people have died in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, and the rain is expected to stay in the forecast for much of the week.
Up to 7 inches of rain was expected through Wednesday and up to a foot by the end of the weekend. Flash flood watches were issued for areas from Port O’Connor, Texas, to near Springfield, Illinois.
In northwestern Louisiana, up to 80 homes and a nursing home were evacuated.
One man died and a woman was injured in Bienville Parish when the car they were in was swept off the road and into a creek by strong floodwaters.
Sharon Anderson, her three children and four grandchildren were rescued from her south Bossier Parish mobile home after rising water threatened to trap them. Several other families already had been trapped, and the water was still rising, she said.
“This morning it was touching the bottom of the houses,” she said. “Now the steps on my back porch are under water and if you walk down the driveway, it’s over the knee.”
Anderson said they were pretty much surrounded by the water. The road into the area is flooded and another outlet that has a bridge is closed because of water.
“We’re literally trapped,” Anderson said. “You have to get a boat to get to our doors in this neighbourhood.”
Several Louisiana parishes have declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard was sent in to help.
Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the order after nearly a foot of rain fell Tuesday night and Wednesday. The governor’s office says eight guardsmen and four high water vehicles will be used in Bossier Parish to assist where needed.
The Louisiana National Guard transported Anderson’s family and others from the neighbourhood in a huge military truck later Wednesday. She said they planned to stay with family and in a hotel until the water receded.
Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington said a mandatory evacuation is in place for several neighbourhoods and subdivisions. Displaced residents can find shelter at the Bossier Civic Center.
Meanwhile, Louisiana wildlife and fisheries enforcement agents have rescued more than three dozen people so far from flooded areas in Webster Parish.
Louisiana State Police closed a section of Interstate 20 near Gibsland after both the eastbound and westbound lanes were covered with a foot of water, making the road impassible.
Meteorologist Matthew Duplantis of the National Weather Service in Shreveport said Wednesday rain brought an additional 2 to 4 inches to the area. The system will also contain severe weather in the form of high winds and the possibility of isolated tornados.
Northwestern State University’s campuses in Natchitoches and Shreveport will be closed Thursday due to weather conditions, as are Bossier Parish public schools.
Over southeast Louisiana, including the New Orleans metro area, forecasters say the slow-moving low pressure system is expected to bring a few rounds of heavy rainfall beginning Thursday morning and continue through early Saturday. Rainfall totals could reach 10 inches in some areas and could result in some flooding.
In rural southeastern Oklahoma, a 30-year-old man drowned Tuesday night after trying to drive his SUV across a low-crossing bridge that was covered by floodwaters. In Texas, a 22-year-old man drowned Monday night after his canoe capsized in Dickinson Bayou, southeast of Houston near Galveston Bay.
The flooding comes after recent severe thunderstorms raged across parts of Central and North Texas. A tornado struck a mobile home park in the North Texas town of Tolar on Monday morning, smashing some homes and injuring two people after two other tornadoes late Sunday injured two people in the North Texas towns of Stephenville and Cool.