ELM GROVE, La. — A thousand people were forced to leave their homes early Thursday as a second round of unusually heavy rain hit an already inundated northern Louisiana. The southern part of the state was bracing for heavy rain later in the day.
Sixteen Louisiana parishes have declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard was sent in to help.
Guard spokesman Rebekah Malone says the Guard evacuated 361 people from homes in Bossier, Ouachita and Morehouse parishes since Wednesday morning, using trucks that can travel though water 20 to 30 inches deep.
Besides the people rescued, Malone says guardsman have evacuated 70 dogs, 16 chickens and even a guinea pig.
In Bossier City — across the Red River from Shreveport — some 3,500 homes were under a mandatory evacuation as a precaution because a bayou was approaching the top of its levee. National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Hansford said Thursday morning that the bayou may top the levee or be breached.
“A weather spotter just north of Monroe reported 18.1 inches of rain since Tuesday night,” Hansford said.
Dozens of people were at a Red Cross shelter at the Bossier Civic Center in northwest Louisiana.
“About 50 people are in the shelter now and more are on the way from the area south of Bossier City, where several subdivisions were cut off by high water,” shelter manager Colleen Morgan said.
“The Red Cross is providing food, a place to sleep and blankets for those at the center,” Morgan said.
Lt. Bill Davis of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office said the road leading to an area just south of Bossier City is block by water in both directions. Authorities are using high-water vehicles to bring out about 1,000 people Thursday morning.
“Once they reach safety, buses will take them to the civil center,” Davis said.
Rescuers were working out of a staging area along Highway 71 in Bossier Parish on Thursday. Using boats and trucks high enough to drive through the water, they went through the community evacuating people from their homes.
The rain, while sometimes light and sometimes hard, showed little sign of letting up. Many residents brought with them dogs and cats as they fled. Two men could be seen in knee-deep water trying to secure horses in the muddy brown waters.
State police report several sections of Interstate 20 were closed from Bossier City to near Gibsland in north central Louisiana.
Rain also pummeled parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas.
In southern Arkansas, heavy rainfall has prompted the closure of some schools and roads, and forecasters say the deluge will continue there for the rest of the week. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service say officials have reported water rescues and evacuations near Dermott, Arkansas as water rises in low-lying areas.
More than 14 inches of rain had fallen as of Thursday morning in Chicot and Ashley counties in the southeast corner of Arkansas. Meteorologist Ed Tarver says the service issued an extreme flood threat for the counties because up to five more inches could be coming today.
Officials say schools are shutting down early and roads are closed in parts of West Tennessee due to flooding caused by heavy rain.
One weather-related drowning was reported in both Oklahoma and Texas earlier this week. In Louisiana, authorities said a man died and a woman was being treated for injuries after their car was swept off a flooded Louisiana road Wednesday in Bienville Parish and into a creek.
Nearly a foot of rain fell Tuesday night into Wednesday in Louisiana, prompting scores of rescues.
Shawn Powell, his wife, and two children, ages 7 and 10, their dog and guinea pig left their home in the Pecan Grove subdivision early Thursday morning in the back of a National Guard truck.
Powell said he watched a Bossier Parish sheriff’s deputy remove his neighbors across the street from their home in a boat Wednesday afternoon.
“At 2 a.m. (Thursday) as the water approached my house, I knew it was time to go,” Powell said.
“As we were traveling out of the neighborhood, I didn’t realize how bad it was,” Powell said. “The water was up to roofs of homes and you could see the tops of cars.”
Powell, his family and the pets were taken to the Red Cross shelter at the civic center.
“We brought with us a change of clothes and that’s all,” Powell said.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Phil Grigsby in Slidell said the first line of heavy rain will contain severe weather in the form of high winds and a possible isolated tornado. Some areas could get up to 14 inches of rain, he said.