Relentless rain that has drenched most of Louisiana since Saturday afternoon didn’t cause catastrophic problems due in large part to drought conditions that dried up the state’s soil and left it thirsty for water.
“It’s been so dry lately that a lot of that water just got absorbed into the soil,” said Kai Roth, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service’s Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center. “If this happened in the spring, these (river) stages would have been a lot worse.”
Mark Harrell, director of the Livingston Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, where as much as 11 inches of rain fell Sunday into Monday — the most in the state — said officials were able to open roads quickly on Monday. There were areas from French Settlement to Springfield that were still experiencing flooding because of the strong south and southeast winds pushing water onto land, he said.
“It’s the normal roads that flood all the time, unfortunately,” Harrell said.
Rivers all over south Louisiana are expected to have only minor flooding over the next few days despite the fact that many areas had received more than 8 inches of rain during the weekend. High water levels on Monday did force officials to close the Amite River and Diversion Canal to recreational traffic starting noon Monday until further notice.
Not everyone escaped flooding, and on Monday, the American Red Cross and Tangipahoa Office of Emergency Preparedness opened a shelter at the Brown Chapel Church, 70427 Martin Luther King Blvd., in Tangipahoa.
Twenty-three people and a dog were rescued by state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents Monday morning from a flooded Silo Estates Trailer Park in Tangipahoa. Residents said there was only a few inches of water in the park Sunday night, but water was coming into trailers Monday morning.
In Ascension Parish, no buildings flooded. The drainage district started pumps before the rain hit and kept up with the rainfall throughout the weekend, said Rick Webre, director of the Ascension Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. A couple of roads had to be barricaded, but the roads were reopened by Monday morning.
The pumps will continue to run because a southeast wind has limited the amount of river water that can flow into Lake Maurepas, he said. Webre said parish officials feel comfortable the pumps will be able to prevent building flooding despite any additional water that gets into the parish.
Coastal flood advisories, however, were extended until 7 a.m. Tuesday with tides expected to be 2 to 3 feet above normal west of the Mississippi River and 3 to 4 feet above normal east of the river, according to the National Weather Service.
In Plaquemines Parish, the Sheriff’s Office reported a levee breach near Myrtle Grove, but had not received any complaints of flooded homes. Although Myrtle Grove Estates subdivision received flood waters, all of the homes and camps are elevated. It doesn’t appear that water will cover La. 23, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, there was localized road flooding that started to recede Monday morning, and no homes were reported flooded, according to the EBRP Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Some places in the parish got about 10 inches of rain.
In Central, water rose around the city Sunday night but receded quickly, Mayor Jr. Shelton said.
“It just kind of proved it was typical flash-flooding with that much rain in that short of time,” he said. “We feel like we dodged a bullet.”
The high rainfall was the result of three weather systems coming together at the same time. A front coming into the state from the Midwest converged with an area of low pressure forming in the Gulf of Mexico that was fed additional moisture by parts of Hurricane Patricia, which hit Mexico on Friday.
“The impacts of Patricia were certainly there,” said Barry Keim, state climatologist. “But we were going to get heavy rain whether Patricia happened or not.”
High rain totals were found mostly over a small area along the Texas/Louisiana border and in a larger area that stretched from East Feliciana through Baton Rouge and Livingston Parish to south of New Orleans, with many areas seeing 8 or more inches of rain.
“This was a wide blanket of rain over a large swath of Louisiana,” Keim said.
Although the next drought map won’t be released until Thursday, Keim said, he anticipates much of the state would improve, with no drought conditions remaining in large parts of south Louisiana. Before the heavy rains began, 86 percent of the state was considered to be experiencing drought conditions.
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