Instead of spending her birthday celebrating with cake, Ashyrinona Noel turned 9 years old escaping flood waters with her family.

At about 3 and half feet tall, the water that surged into her home in Central Saturday rose quickly and soon came up to her waist.

She and her family members stuffed their belongings in suitcases and garbage bags. Her brother Peter, 14, put their kittens Sassy and Snowflake into a kennel and they left their home to wait at a nearby church that also began to take some water by late Saturday afternoon.

The persistent rains, powered by bands of tropical downpours, pounded the Baton Rouge area Friday and Saturday, with Central, Zachary and Baker hit hardest. But the flooding extended down to the south part of East Baton Rouge Parish, closing down many streets and, in some neighborhoods, creeping into homes. 

"We tried to wait it out," said Ashyrinona's grandmother Anna Noel, who said the family of six has lived in their Central home for about six years. "The gentleman a few houses down from us told us we were high and dry and safe, but all of sudden it just started rising and it didn't stop."

In Central on Saturday, law enforcement officials and volunteers with boats showed up to help move stranded residents to safety. For most of the day, boats were often more valuable than trucks throughout in the rescue efforts.

Along Hooper Road, four volunteer boats and four law enforcement boats glided back and forth rescuing trapped families. At one home, the water almost reached the roof. Several families offloading from boats -- all carrying their possessions in garbage bags -- reported that water was at least two feet deep in their homes.

Chris and Emily Rogers arrived from St. Francisville Saturday with their fishing boat in tow. They hoped to drive the boat to Central to help out friends, but like many, got no farther than Hooper near Mickens Road.  

“One of our friends is stuck in a loft,” said Emily Rogers.

“I hate to say it but if the water would go a little higher, I could get the boat in there, but it’s going up and down too much,” said Chris Rogers.

Central Mayor Jr. Shelton said the floodwaters had touched every neighborhood.

"This makes the flood of 1983 a mere distant memory," he said. "When we talk about floods now, we'll talk about the great flood of 2016. Everything else pales in comparison."

In nearby Baker, Dee and Michael Monahan were rescued and taken to the Red Cross' designated shelter at Baker Municipal Auditorium, but fortunes shifted and water started threatening the auditorium too. Within hours, evacuees there were heading instead to three other shelters on higher ground, including Southern University. The Baker auditorium eventually flooded by late Saturday afternoon.

The Monahans saw the water rising in their nearby subdivision, Brown Heights, but hoped they could ride it out. When the mandatory evacuation order came down, they left -- the first time they’d ever been forced to evacuate due to weather.

“We’ve lived there for 39 years and we’ve never seen it this bad,” said Dee Monahan.

The Baker/Zachary area was the site of Baton Rouge's only fatality by Saturday night due to flooding. On Friday, William Mayfield, 68, drowned after falling into a ditch while being helped through the flood water.

Baker Mayor Darnell Waites described the depressing scene along Groom Road Saturday afternoon.

“The Chamber of Commerce’s Office, water is going in there. Water is going into the high school,” Waites said. “This whole street is flooded.”

With multiple agencies responding to evacuation requests and flooded roads, the phones at the East Baton Rouge Parish Office of Emergency Management in Baton Rouge were ringing off the hook all day.

“It’s a controlled chaos,” said JoAnne Moreau, emergency preparedness director said Saturday afternoon. “We’ve got so many houses and so many people trying to leave.”

Although the city-parish didn’t have any estimate on the number of homes flooded, Moreau said it would reach into the thousands.

To help with evacuations and rescues, East Baton Rouge Parish is being helped by a host of agencies, including state Wildlife and Fisheries, the National Guard and the Fire Marshal.

“As fast as they take them out, the water rises,” Moreau said.

In old south Baton Rouge, Kimberly Kamal, 29, of Thomas H. Delpit Drive, said her family had been in their home for several generations and the last time the water got this high was in Hurricane Betsy, when her mom had to be evacuated by boat. This time, the water was still down the street, but it had her wondering whether they needed to make plans to leave.

Other residents waded out of the flooded part of the neighborhood or came to get elderly family members to higher ground.

Richard Hamilton Jr., 26, said he helped his dad get out of their flooded house and found a dry home for his dog and her puppy, but wasn’t sure where he was going to stay now.

“It’s in every room. It just started coming through the front door,” Hamilton said. 

Near the Baton Rouge lakes, Stanford Avenue and Dalrymple Drive were topped by water, making for a spectacle as people took pictures and ventured out on the enlarged lakes in canoes.

“A lot of these homes are elevated,” said Hal Pavur, 56, who lives on nearby Morning Glory Avenue. Flooding wasn’t a problem for most of them but, “I really feel for the people in Zachary and Baker.”

The area around LSU got plenty of flooding as well. High water prompted the closure of the school and the LSU fan day held annually in preparation for football season.

On Friday night, residents at Chateau Wien on Siegen Lane had to be evacuated. St. George firefighters helped people as they waded through the floodwaters, and by 7:30 p.m., about 30 children and elderly residents had been evacuated.

By Saturday morning, more than 100 people were helped by boat from their homes in the Audubon Terrace off Siegen after the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office ordered a mandatory evacuation. Particularly hard hit were homes along two streets at the back of the subdivision as Ward Creek overflowed its banks.

Jessica Golden Cooper and her husband, Keith, had been brought out by boat with their three dogs and a cat. Standing on the carport of a neighbor's home, Jessica Cooper said the night before it seemed the water was receding.

"This morning we woke up and it was all the way up to the door," she said.

A few miles away, a dozen homes on a well-traversed stretch of Perkins Road between Bluebonnet Boulevard and Essen Lane took on several feet of water by early Saturday morning. Many residents left their homes in the middle of the night. 

When resident Claudia Richard returned to her two-story home Saturday afternoon she was afraid to go back inside. Several feet of water submerged her fence and plants. 

"This is rough, I don't even know how to deal with this," she said, as some of her neighbors waded through the waist-deep water and carried clothes out of their homes. 

In nearby Ascension Parish, the biggest concern wasn't current flooding conditions, but what could come as water cascades down the Amite River.

If Amite River crests at 21.5 feet at Bayou Manchac on Monday or Tuesday and at 16 feet at Port Vincent at the same time, as the National Weather Service predicts, flooding conditions in Ascension Parish "will be unprecedented," said Sheriff Jeff Wiley.

"We're not crying wolf on this," Wiley said.

The last such flooding in Ascension Parish was in 1983, said Wiley, and the "crest numbers then were much lower than the projected crest numbers now."

"I would ask people to recognize their own responsibility to take care of all they can take care of with their home and family," he said.

Ascension officials issued a dusk-to-dawn curfew that went into effect Saturday night.

Roads are dangerous and "nobody should be riding through subdivisions making waves" that could reach homes, Parish President Kenny Matassa said.

Wiley said deputies would not be actively stopping cars and interfering with the flow of traffic Saturday night, the first night of the curfew, but said it may get to that point in the coming days.

"Our intent is not to impede the community and the citizens who have a compelling reason to get out," Wiley said.

Compared to other areas, Ascension Parish has experienced a small amount of water in houses, with about 30 to 40 homes experiencing minor flooding, officials have said.

But many roads are flooded or partially flooded and officials expect conditions to worsen.

Gonzales is seeing quite a lot of street flooding, as the two waterways through the city, Bayou Francois and New River Canal, overflow their banks, said Mayor Barney Arceneaux.

"We've already had to do 16 boat rescues with our Fire Department," Arceneaux said Saturday from city hall on Irma Boulevard -- where water had just started coming into the building.

Rick Webre, director of the parish's emergency preparedness office, said of the current conditions, "We don't have any historical records on an incident this significant."

Advocate staff writers Ellyn Couvillion and Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.