Rivers across Louisiana are breaking flood records as heavy rains slowly inch south, causing flash floods that are threatening businesses, homes and lives throughout the state.
From the widespread flooding in north Louisiana that forced the closure of Interstate 20, to the record-breaking levels seen on the Sabine River in western Louisiana to the ongoing flash flooding in large portions of southeast Louisiana, government officials and residents are finding themselves in a struggle against nature.
Emergency officials across the state have been responding to people stranded in their homes or struggling on the roadways. The almost 800 Louisiana National Guard personnel engaged in flood evacuations and search and rescue operations brought more than 1,700 residents and 162 pets to safety as of Friday evening, and that doesn’t account for the rescues by local law enforcement.
Comparisons to the April 1983 flood are inevitable as water levels approach, or pass, those seen during that benchmark flood, which was caused by a 50-hour downpour across the region. That flood, which also broke river flood records, damaged thousands of homes in Livingston, Ascension and East Baton Rouge parishes.
Central residents remember it well, as officials keep an eye on Comite River forecasts of even higher river levels than they saw in 1983, when the river reached 29.72 feet.
River forecasts now have the Comite River near Joor Road rising to 30.5 feet early Saturday.
“We’re getting prepared for overnight and tomorrow,” Mayor Jr. Shelton said Friday.
The city has boats and four-wheelers at the ready as well as barricades to block off roads that may go under water, including Greenwell Springs Road.
Some of the prime concerns include the Frenchtown Road corridor and Winchester subdivision, Shelton said.
Ascension Parish officials were warning residents Friday evening that the flooding on the way is comparable to what was experienced during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
“Please do not take this threat lightly,” according to the statement.
In Denham Springs, the Amite River is expected to rise 11 more feet Saturday and Sunday and cause widespread flooding in subdivisions, including those along Tiger Bend Road, Antioch Road, Eliot Road and in Woodcrest and Stevendale Estates in Old Jefferson, according to the National Weather Service. This level is just a few feet shy of the historic 41.5-foot crest set in 1983.
“What we’re expecting is that the big rise in the Amite will have some major issues” with high water in Ascension Parish, said Lt. Col. Bobby Webre, of the Sheriff’s Office.
“People who normally will have high water in these type of situations should be prepared,” Webre said.
Just downriver, a crest of 17 feet on Monday morning means a possibility that homes along Kendalwood Road that aren’t elevated could be flooded and that there could be backwater flooding along Bayou Fountain and Bayou Manchac, according to the National Weather Service.
The story stays the same for rivers to the east: The Tickfaw, Tangipahoa, Bogue Chitto and the Tchefuncte rivers all are either breaking records or are expected to cause flooding of roads and properties.
The Tangipahoa River near Amite saw its steepest rise throughout the day Thursday and Friday but is expected to peak at 25 feet late Saturday evening. At this level, water will cover La. 40 near Independence while access roads to Whispering Pines Campground will be under water.
Records also are on their way to being broken along the Bogue Falaya River near Camp Covington as forecasters expect it to hit 58.4 feet Saturday night, shattering the previous record of 57 feet set in July 2003. The same river at Boston Street is expected to hit 19 feet on Saturday morning, topping the previous record of 17 feet set in January 1993. There already was flooding of La. 25 between Covington and Folsom on Friday afternoon.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.