Historic Rains Flood Southeast Louisiana

As many as 2,000 people in south Louisiana have been rescued from homes, vehicles and even clinging to trees as a slow-moving storm hammers the state with flooding. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MAX BECHERER
As many as 2,000 people in south Louisiana have been rescued from homes, vehicles and even clinging to trees as a slow-moving storm hammers the state with flooding. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MAX BECHERER

A state of emergency has been issued in Louisiana where at least four people died and thousands were rescued in the southeast following historic rains projected to continue through the week.

President Obama granted disaster declaration requests for some of the affected communities Sunday, a day after the state issued its own emergency declaration. As of Monday, as many as 20,000 people have been rescued from the ongoing rains.

The National Weather Service also extended river flood warnings Monday, saying some rivers like the Amite River at Bayou Manchac Point have over 9 feet high water levels. This comes as the agency said Sunday rains would continue in the affected areas through the week, which would delay water receding.

Rains started Friday and quickly produced water levels that are well on their way to surpass record flooding experienced in 1983. Gov. John Bel Edwards called the floods “unprecedented,” the Associated Press reported. Edwards and his family were forced to relocate to a state police facility in Baton Rouge when the Governor’s Mansion basement flooded and electricity was shut off.

“I’m still asking people to be patient. Don’t get out and sightsee,” Edwards said. “Even when the weather is better, it’s not safe.”

On Monday, a NASA analysis found that heavy rainfall and flooding is projected to occur northward into the Mississippi valley. Heavy rainfall has also recently affected southeastern Texas and western Louisiana, NASA said.

Over the weekend the governor deployed the Louisiana National Guard to assist in search and rescue operations. Some 1,200 to 1,250 soldiers were expected to be helping by the end of the day Saturday, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, gripping rescue operations have been ongoing. On Saturday, a WFAB television crew captured rescue workers on a boat cutting open the soft-top of a sinking car before one of the workers submerges into the murky water to pull out a woman. Once out of the water the woman then pleads for her dog. Though the images below don’t show, workers also saved her dog, according to the AP.

Elsewhere, crews pulled hundreds of motorists from a flooded stretch of Interstate 12 after being stranded for hours. State police said 140 motorists were rescued near the Amite River, east of Baton Rouge.

While this historic flood has not been linked to human-caused climate change, scientists have said for years people can expect more extreme weather in the U.S. due to global warming. Climate change influences the droughts like the one now affecting California, intense precipitation events like the one battering Louisiana, and the formation of heat-waves like the one now scorching the East Coast.

Recent studies have also found that North America has been most affected by weather-related extreme events in recent decades. In 2012, Munich Re, an insurance company, found a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America.

This is a developing story, and has been updated to account for new information.