Saturday 13 August 2016

One Dead, One Missing in Louisiana Flooding as rivers reach record highs

Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter found himself in the back of a dump truck with two council members on Friday, helping transport residents from their homes in the flooded Highland Ridge neighborhood to a shelter and higher ground.
The residents were being pulled from their homes by rescuers in boats in a scene that was being played out in similar fashion throughout South Louisiana as torrential rains continued to hammer the region.
"The neighborhood is really my biggest concern right now," Ritter said.
Two of the evacuees were John Knight and his wife, Ashley, who were rescued from their Highland Ridge home after more than 7 inches of water rushed in, first through their sinks and drains and finally through their doorways.
"I went to bed and it wasn't even raining.
Then I wake up and we have water in our house," John Knight said.
The young couple, who bought their house in October and are expecting their first child in March, had not purchased flood insurance because the neighborhood is not in a flood zone.
Meteorologists predicted several more inches of rain will fall through the weekend.
On Friday, the National Weather Service repeatedly extended its flash flood warning throughout the day.
The weather system was felt across southeast and south-central Louisiana.
The torrential rains claimed one life in Louisiana when a 68-year-old man drowned after falling into a ditch while being helped through floodwaters along Plank Road near Baker, in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Witnesses to the drowning were unable to save the man, according to authorities who identified the victim as William H. Mayfield.
In nearby Zachary, a school bus transporting children plunged into a flooded ditch but the children got out safely.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has issued a state of emergency for the entire state of Louisiana because of severe weather conditions.
The declaration, issued Friday morning, will be in effect through Sept. 10.
In the Acadiana region and elsewhere, officials closed roads and opened sandbag depots.
Meanwhile, motorists struggled.
Many were stranded away from their homes, or trapped inside their homes due to impassable roads. Many Acadiana area residents had to be pulled from their flooded homes by rescue officials.
Inch counts varied, with some estimating 8 to 10 inches in less than 12 hours Friday.
Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter said he believed 12 or more inches fell in hard-hit south Lafayette Parish. Jonathan Brazzell, with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, said Friday the Acadiana area could get hit with another 5-10 inches of rain on Saturday with higher amounts in some areas.
He said even that forecast could be an underestimation.
"It doesn't look good," Brazzell said.
"It's very hard to put that much rain in a forecast."
The low-pressure weather system - one behaving much like a tropical depression, Brazzell said - started around Florida and slowly drifted west as the week wore on.
He said most of the rain fell offshore until early Friday morning.
The system is expected to continue drifting west-northwest for the next two to three days, with the worst of the rainfall projected to subside by Monday.
The downpours closed schools, courts and businesses throughout the region on Friday, as students, employees and patrons were mostly prevented from traveling the flooded roadways.
Waters reached waist-high in some areas - even those not within a dedicated flood zone.
In south Lafayette Parish, an average of more than 8 inches fell overnight and Friday morning around Broussard and Youngsville.
Ritter, the Youngsville mayor, said the neighborhood of Highland Ridge was under water Friday, and that a house-by-house evacuation was ongoing at around noon.
The neighborhood is in south Lafayette Parish at Almonaster and Larriviere roads, near where Southside High School is being built.
He said the flooding prompted him to request National Guard and other state help as well as from Lafayette Parish.
Tom Carroll, director of public works with Lafayette Consolidated Government, said not even the most "pristine" drainage system can handle that amount of rainfall in such a short period of time. "When you have this type of storm, whether you're in a flood zone or not, you're going to have these types of issues," Carroll said.
About 6 inches of rain fell over Lafayette during a 12-hour period overnight and Friday morning, with areas farther south experiencing almost double the rainfall, according to the NWS. Lafayette City-Parish Mayor Joel Robideaux opened up the Heymann Center in Lafayette, and the School Board opened a multi-purpose building at Green T. Lindon Elementary School for residents flooded out of their homes or who cannot get to their homes.
Farther south, Cade and surrounding areas received between 9-11 inches of rain overnight and Friday morning, with an average of 11 inches - and several more in some places - falling in and west of Iberia Parish.
Parish President Larry Richard declared a state of emergency and established a shelter at the City Park community center, also enlisting help from the state and National Guard to rescue flooded residents.
"We have so many roads that need to be closed we don't have enough barricades to put them out," Richard said, adding the floods caused sewage issues throughout the parish.
Floodwaters on Friday afternoon were worst in the West End area of New Iberia and in Coteau and Loreauville, although he said the water had been draining well.
"The water is already starting to go down," Richard said. "But it's coming back." All Lafayette, Iberia, St. Martin and Vermilion Parish public schools were closed, along with South Louisiana Community College. University of Louisiana at Lafayette students, staff and employees are encouraged to shelter in place but the facilities remained open. Private schools were closed, and Diocese of Lafayette Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel also shuttered diocesan central offices located at the Immaculata Center on Carmel Drive in Lafayette.
The diocese said it would resume Immaculata Center office hours on Tuesday. KATC-TV reported about 600 Lafayette Utilities System customers were without power as flood waters rose to electrical cabinets, shorting out the conductors and forcing the power to turn off.
LUS Director Terry Huval said flood waters had to subside before crews could make repairs.

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