Nearly a third of all the homes in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, have been flooded as floodwater overtopped a levee along the Amite River, the Baton Rouge Advocate says. Though skies have cleared as of Tuesday morning, the region is still dealing with the massive amount of water left behind, which is responsible for at least seven deaths and is pushing flood control systems to their limits.
“The next 24 to 48 hours is going to be a significant indication of just how much risk the parish remains in,” Rick Webre, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security, said in an emergency statement.
Though water is flowing over the Laurel Ridge Levee, as of Sunday the levee structure had not had any breaks, breaches or structural damage, the parish Office of Homeland Security said in a Facebook post. Still, parish officials estimate that as many as 15,000 homes and businesses have already been flooded, mostly in Galvez and St. Amant, the Advocate reports.
Parish officials battled false rumors that the six diesel-powered pumps weren’t operating, the Advocated reports. According to a Facebook post from the OHS, the pumps were shut down temporarily Monday night to remove debris caught in the intake system.
Meredith Conger, parish homeland security planning and intelligence officer, acknowledged in an interview with the Advocate that the historically high water could eventually shut down the giant pumps.
“It is possible it will get to that point that it is no longer functional,” Conger said. “Flooding across Ascension Parish is widespread, and we are not out of danger yet.”
Federal Emergency Declared
The federal government declared a major disaster after days torrential rain inundated the state killing at least seven people, flooding thousands of homes and prompting thousands of water rescues.
The death toll rose on Sunday when several more victims of the massive flooding in Louisiana were discovered by authorities, including a grandmother who drowned saving her grandson in Rapides Parish. According to KALB, the woman’s vehicle was swept from a flooded road in Hineston.
Sheriff’s officers told KALB they believe the adult and child escaped their sinking car, but were washed into Big Creek. Two women out for a walk heard screaming, and another bystander swam out to recover the child, who was clinging to a tree limb. An initial examination showed the child to be in good condition.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday that more than 20,000 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 governor said in a press conference Sunday that as many as 10,000 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 6 feet in Magnolia, and by over 4 feet in Denham Springs.
Seven Dead in Louisiana
Flooding triggered by the heavy rainfall has killed at least seven people since Friday.
According to the Louisiana State Coroner, as of Monday afternoon, there had been two flood-related deaths each in East Baton Rouge, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes. Flooding also likely caused the death of a grandmother in Rapides Parish.
In Tangipahoa Parish, officials have not identified a 59-year-old man whose body was recovered after being swept away by floodwaters, but they did identify the other fatality. In a statement Monday afternoon, Sheriff Daniel Edwards confirmed the body of 20-year-old Alexandra Budde was located Sunday afternoon along Highway 442 in Tickfaw. Her vehicle was reportedly caught in floodwaters and pulled underwater during the flood.
The body of Greensburg resident Samuel Muse, 54, was recovered in St. Helena Parish Friday, State Police told the Baton Rouge Advocate. Muse was driving his pickup west on State Highway 10 when the vehicle was swept away by floodwaters.