Louisiana flooding: How severe is it?

The 'historic' rainfall that battered south Louisiana has eased, but officials say floodwaters may not recede immediately, and are urging caution.

Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser/AP
People wade in water near flood damaged homes in Highland Ridge Subdivision in Youngsville, La. on Sunday. Gov. John Bel Edwards said it was unclear when the floodwaters would recede and urged caution.

The rainfall that battered southern Louisiana has eased, but authorities stepped up rescue efforts Sunday as concerns turned to the impact of floodwaters that have forced thousands from their homes.

About 20,000 people have been rescued, along with hundreds of pets. At least three people, possibly five, have died as result of the flooding, Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters on Sunday, The Advocate reports.

Efforts to rescue stranded residents continue, as the National Guard, the State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and other agencies have employed boats, helicopters, and other vehicles to aid residents.

Ray Cutrer told CNN that the water took his family by surprise. He returned on Saturday to find the flooding had severely damaged his daughter's house while his own next door was unscathed. She and her husband are now staying with him while his brother is taking in another neighbor.

"We're just keeping them right here in the neighborhood, and we are all going to be working right here with them, cleaning it out," Mr. Cutrer said. "That is the way we can give back to this community."

"This is a serious event, ongoing," Governor Edwards said at a news conference, USA Today reports. "It's not over." He said more than 10,000 people were in shelters, while President Obama granted the governor’s request for federal aid, declaring a disaster in four parishes.

Parts of the region had been hit by 25 inches of rain, while as much as 30 inches of rain hit Watson, La., as of Saturday.

As the weather turned sunny on Sunday, Edwards and other officials noted that concerns about the impact of floodwaters had not diminished. The governor called the flooding "historic,"  saying that residents should continue to remain inside.

"We are not in control as far as how fast these floodwaters will recede, and in fact they are still going up in some places," he said, according to USA Today.

Gavin Phillips, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told the Associated Press that the low pressure system that battered south Louisiana has moved into Texas. But there is still a danger of fresh flooding as the swollen rivers drain toward the Gulf of Mexico and a chance of thunderstorms continues through the week, Mr. Phillips said.

On Saturday, Derek Van Dam, a CNN meteorologist, said Baton Rouge received twice the amount of rain in one 24-hour period that it normally receives in the entire month of August. The August average is 5.82 inches, he said.

Flooding hit the Amite and Comite Rivers, while the Louisiana National Guard has also employed high-water vehicles to rescue flood victims, including stranded motorists.

On Sunday night, officials from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office said they had recovered the body of a woman from inside a flooded car, possibly raising the death toll from the flooding to five, the AP reports.

Some areas of the Amite River will not crest, or hit the highest point of a wave, until Monday, Jeff Gaschel, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service, told USA Today.

The area had similar amounts of rainfall in 2001, but over a longer period of time, he said. The National Weather Service's flood warnings continued for some areas of the river on Monday.

Louisiana's Department of Transportation and Development said about 200 roads were closed, including 30 washouts of state highways, the Advocate reports. An additional 1,400 critical bridges needed to be inspected before traffic can travel freely over them.

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