Heavy rain has eliminated drought conditions in south Louisiana, helped greatly in northern reaches of state _lowres


Days of drenching rain that began a week ago dampened Louisiana’s soil and helped erase drought conditions in south Louisiana, while at the same time easing significant dry weather problems in central and northern Louisiana.

With another round of rain headed for Louisiana expected to start Saturday afternoon, the state could end up being drought free for the first time since July.

Currently, 43 percent of the state is completely out of drought conditions. A week ago, only 3.5 percent of Louisiana was not experiencing some degree of drought.

In addition, the most severe drought levels — extreme and exceptional — covered all of central and northern Louisiana a week ago, but that’s improved significantly. Only a stretch north of Shreveport along the state’s border with Arkansas remains under severe drought conditions.

Over the next two days, 2 to 4 inches of rain are expected, but that’s just a prediction. Baton Rouge was expected to get between 3 and 6 inches of rain last weekend, but lingering storms dumped more than 10 inches on the capital city, said Barry Keim, state climatologist.

There is a 90 percent chance of rain Saturday in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A flash flood watch has been issued for south and central Louisiana into Saturday evening.

“Expect some flash flooding even with lower rain amounts,” Keim said.

Despite heavy rains in south Louisiana last weekend, dry soils soaked up much of the water and limited flooding to the low-lying areas. The soil in the state is now more saturated with water, but river levels have been going down steadily and should have enough capacity to absorb the new water, said Jeff Graschel, service coordination hydrologist with the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center.

Forecast models show that if the rain predictions of 2 to 4 inches hold true, there will again be only minor flooding in the Amite and Comite rivers.

“Right now, we don’t see anything greater than we had in the last event,” he said. “Certainly that can change, and we’ll be watching through the weekend.”

Rain chances will start tapering off in Lafayette on Sunday after 1 p.m., while Baton Rouge will remain at a 60 percent chance and New Orleans at a 90 percent chance of rain as the storm system moves through the state. Sunshine returns to the forecast by Monday afternoon.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.