Harvey's heavy rains ratchet up flooding fears in Louisiana

Associated Press

Heavy rain bands from Harvey lashed southwest Louisiana on Monday, ratcheting up flooding fears as the state's governor warned of a "dangerous situation" looming.

Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters he expects the threat to rise as outer rain bands sweep into Louisiana, adding, "This is going to play out over several days."

While Louisiana doesn't appear to be facing a threat on par with Harvey's catastrophic toll in Texas, images of flood devastation in Houston revived painful memories for survivors of Hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago.

"It really evoked a lot of emotions and heartbreak for the people who are going through that now in Houston," Ray Gratia said as he collected sandbags for his New Orleans home, which flooded from the 2005 hurricane that left much of the city underwater for weeks.

Rhonda Wylie loaded sandbags into her car with help of firefighters Monday as rain bands neared New Orleans. Wylie's home flooded earlier this month during a deluge that exposed problems with the city's pump and drainage system. New Orleans was on the outskirts of Harvey's rain bands Monday, but residents are on edge because the pumping system still isn't working at full capacity.

"I just felt like I needed to take all precautions this time," she said as homeowners picked up sandbags from local fire stations.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said a recently repaired pump failed Monday during Harvey's heavy rains. Landrieu added that most pumps were working, and the city is continuing with efforts to improve the pumping system.

In southwest Louisiana, a man who lives near the Mermentau River in Jefferson Davis Parish dug a ditch near this home Monday to drain water that flooded his barnyard overnight, accidentally drowning a goat. Marshall Daigle isn't worried that his home will be damaged, but he expects floodwaters to cut off access to his neighborhood.

"It's going to flood, and it's going to flood in a big way," he predicted.

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said floodwaters had damaged fewer than a dozen homes in that southwest Louisiana city as of Monday afternoon, but the number is likely to rise in coming days.

Floodwaters crept over roads toward homes in Brenda Bradley's neighborhood in Moss Bluff, a Lake Charles suburb. The 72-year-old woman and her husband Jimmie had stacked sandbags at their doors as water lapped at the steps of their back porch.

"We've got to try to save what we can," said Bradley, whose home flooded with several inches of water in 2006. "We're in our 70s and there's no way we can lift all (our) furniture up."

President Donald Trump, moving to expedite federal disaster assistance, issued a federal emergency declaration Monday for five parishes in southwest Louisiana: Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermillion. And the Louisiana National Guard readied high-water vehicles and boats, but hasn't conducted any search and rescue missions in southwest Louisiana yet, the governor said.

Louisiana also is assisting Texas, sending teams of 40 wildlife and fisheries agents with 40 boats to join search-and-rescue efforts across state lines.

An emergency response official in coastal Cameron Parish said the threat of flooding from Harvey's torrential rains could be "new ground for us." Danny Lavergne, director of Cameron Parish's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said approximately 30 roads in the parish were covered with water but remained passable Monday morning.

But he added it was "early in the game," with more heavy rain in the forecast.

"It's far from being over," he said.

Tornado and flash flood watches covered parts of southwest Louisiana.

Donald Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office that covers southwest Louisiana said the area could get 10 to 15 inches more rain through Wednesday.

In southeast Louisiana, meteorologist Christopher Bannan said 3 to 6 inches are possible through Tuesday, with 5 to 10 inches through Thursday.

The Associated Press' Stacey Plaisance contributed from New Orleans; Jeff Amy contributed from Jefferson Davis Parish.

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