NEW ORLEANS – More rain Saturday was expected to swamp already soggy ground across Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf Coast where at least two people died and dozens had to be rescued from waist-high water surrounding their homes.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency as rescue workers in the southeastern part of the state braced for more precipitation.
Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said the governor returned to Louisiana on Friday because of the flooding. Edwards had been in Colorado for a policy meeting of the Democratic Governors Association but left early because of the storm.
Edwards has scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Saturday to discuss the flooding situation, which also affected the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion, which has a flooded basement. WAFB-TV reports (http://bit.ly/2b4rZsO) the governor’s family has been relocated until the situation is resolved.
A spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office said one man died Friday after slipping into a flooded ditch near the city of Zachary. Casey Rayborn Hicks identified the victim as 68-year-old William Mayfield. His body was found about noon Friday.
Dr. William “Beau” Clark, the parish coroner, ruled the death “an accidental drowning.”
A second victim was found in St. Helena Parish, where crews pulled a body from a submerged pickup on Louisiana Highway 10.
State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning confirmed they found a man in his 50s inside a marooned Chevrolet pickup truck about 7 p.m. Friday. The body was turned over to the parish coroner’s office. His name has not been released, but Browning said he’s believed to be from the area.
Meanwhile, crews are continuing to search for possibly another washed away vehicle after residents reported a missing person.
Browning said the area is sparsely populated and authorities only came across the truck after earlier successfully rescuing the driver of an 18-wheeler whose rig was pushed off the roadway.
Numerous rivers in southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi were overflowing their banks and threatening widespread flooding after extreme rainfall that began late Thursday, the National Weather Service reported.
Meteorologist Mike Shields, with the service’s Slidell, Louisiana office, said a flash-flood watch remained in effect through Sunday.
“Potentially, additional heavy rain from 4 to 8 inches can be expected west of Interstate 55 and lesser amounts east of there as the system continues moving further west,” he said.
In a 24-hour period, Baton Rouge reported as much as 11.34 inches of rain fell compared with 2.34 inches at New Orleans’ international airport in Kenner. Shields said one of their weather observers reported 17.09 inches fell in Livingston.
The Comite River near Baton Rouge and Amite River near Denham Springs, both in Louisiana, were predicted to set record crests over the weekend. Forecaster Alek Krautmann said both rivers could flood many houses in suburban areas near Baton Rouge.
The Tickfaw River, just south of the Mississippi state line in Liverpool, Louisiana, was already at the highest level ever recorded at 9 a.m. Friday.
Mike Steele, a spokesman for the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said requests were coming in for high-water vehicles, boats and sandbags. Tangipahoa Parish alone requested tens of thousands of sandbags.
In southwest Mississippi, rescues occurred in Amite and Wilkinson counties.
Leroy Hansford, his wife and stepson were among those rescued near Gloster.
Hansford, 62, said waters from Beaver Creek, which is normally more than 400 feet away from his house, rose quickly overnight. He said another stepson who lives nearby alerted him.
“We woke up and the water kept on coming,” Hansford said. “It came up to my waist.” His wife told Hansford that it’s the highest she’s seen the creek in the 48 years she’s lived there.
In Crosby, Mississippi, more than 50 people flooded out of a neighborhood will be housed at a shelter in Natchez.
Wilkinson County Chancery Clerk Thomas Tolliver said an apartment complex and surrounding houses in the town were flooded after 10 inches of rain fell. Authorities said they expect to shelter displaced Crosby residents at least until Monday.