Residents in Louisiana and Mississippi are taking stock of damage Saturday after a massive deluge of rain submerged roads and cars, washed out bridges and forced residents to flee homes.
The rain and flooding is part of a weather system that has affected Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama. At least three people have died in Louisiana alone.
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In Mississippi, officials said as many as 1,000 residents could see their homes flooded by the rising Leaf River in Hattiesburg, Petal and surrounding areas.
In Louisiana's St. Tammany Parish, officials late Friday asked people living near two rivers to consider evacuating because the rivers were rising to "historical proportions" because of heavy rains north of the area.
In southwest Louisiana, a band of rain dumped 25 to 38 centimetres of rain across some areas late Thursday and into Friday, sparking vicious flash flooding.
Allen DeWeese was living in the Land-o-Pines campground in Covington with his 10-year-old son when the rushing waters of the Tchefuncte River destroyed his trailer.
"They're calling it Land-o-Lakes right at the moment," he joked, while smoking a cigarette at a shelter set up in Covington. His trailer? "It's destroyed. It's underwater."
He planned to spend the night at the shelter. After that, he wasn't sure. "I'll take it day-to-day," he said.
In nearby Tangipahoa Parish, Sheriff Daniel Edwards said close to 50 roads were closed because of high water and an estimated 300 to 400 people had to evacuate. Further to the east in Washington Parish, swollen rivers and creeks led to widespread flooding.
In northern Louisiana, the deluge has dumped 38 to 50 centimetres this week. In Ouachita Parish, well over 1,000 people have been evacuated, said Glenn Springfield, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. He said they started doing water rescues early Wednesday morning and have been "doing those pretty much around the clock nonstop since then."
In Bossier Parish, also in northwest Louisiana, first responders evacuated at least 1,000 people. Officials Friday said they expect waters to overtop the Red Chute Levee but it's too soon to say by how much or what damage it could cause.
'It all came so sudden'
Brenda Maddox was forced to flee her home of 26 years. She and her spouse left Thursday with four days of clothes packed. On Friday they came back to retrieve their car from the flooded streets and were going to an RV park to wait out the rain.
"We'd heard we'd get a lot of rain, but it all came so sudden," she said. "We hate to leave, but we thought we'd get out while we can."
At the Pecan Valley Estates mobile home park, Sam Cassidy and his wife were the last holdouts Friday — worried looters might come if they left.
Thursday morning, with waters creeping up his front steps, he stood in waist-deep water watching his neighbours evacuate their home. An alligator swam by. By night it looked like a "horror movie."
"It was pitch black; the houses were empty. It's been an adventure," he said.
The weather system responsible for the problems was starting to move slowly to the northeast, but additional showers are expected Saturday, said Frank Revitte, from the National Weather Service in Slidell.
Gov. John Bel Edwards crisscrossed the state Friday checking on parishes. He said there had been record flooding in some areas and called it a "major event."
Mike Steele, a spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Friday it was too early to provide estimates on damage as the number of flooded properties and evacuees was "changing by the minute."
State emergency director Lee Smithson says Mississippi is dealing with the most widespread flooding since Hurricane Isaac in 2012. Louisiana National Guard spokesman Pete Schneider says it's the most widespread flooding outside of a hurricane the state has ever seen.
The Louisiana National Guard says about 800 members have rescued more than 1,730 people and 160 pets, filled more than 324,000 sandbags and given out 12,000 bottles of water since midweek.