Heavy Flooding Inundates Southeast Louisiana

Aug 14, 2016
Originally published on August 14, 2016 5:32 pm
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ALLISON AUBREY, HOST:

Heavy flooding is inundating southeast Louisiana. Three people are confirmed dead and more than 7,000 others have been rescued, some from second-story balconies and windows and some from trees. In a minute, we'll talk to one of those evacuees in Baton Rouge, which is one of the hardest-hit areas. Floodwaters are topping more than 20 feet in some areas, and cell service is down for many. Earlier I spoke with Amy Wold. She's the environmental reporter for The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge. I started by asking her to describe the scene.

AMY WOLD: It has been historic. We've seen rain levels, first of all, started Thursday and Friday that we had not seen in a long, long time. And now we are seeing river levels that are breaking records. Most people around here remember the flood of 1983. A lot of places got flooded in East Baton Rouge Parish. This is breaking all of those by two or three feet.

AUBREY: There have been three reported deaths, as we just said. One woman who died was reportedly riding in a car with her husband and his mother when the floodwaters swept the car away. And then rescuers found two others clinging to a tree on Saturday. Do you know if there are still other people awaiting rescue?

WOLD: There are. The search and rescue is continuing now through large parts of the parish. That's also going on in our neighbor, Livingston Parish.

AUBREY: And what's the most dramatic thing you have seen? I mean, we've heard reports of people going out in their own boats to help with the rescue efforts.

WOLD: Absolutely. We're here in south Louisiana, so very many of us have boats. So a lot of them just hitched up and are out at wherever they can launch to go look for people to help.

AUBREY: How are people staying in touch? I've heard that cell phone services is out.

WOLD: That is really difficult. AT&T went out this morning at some point. So it's been very difficult to get in touch with other people. If people have Wi-Fi, they can call that way. But yeah, it's put a big strain on a lot of people. People are having problems connecting with their family members, so if you haven't heard from someone for a while there's just really no way to get in touch with them.

AUBREY: The governor, John Bel Edwards, has declared a state of emergency there in Louisiana. What is expected over the next 24 to 36 hours? Could the flooding actually get worse in some places?

WOLD: Absolutely. We have a river - the Amite River has crested in some areas, but the bulge of the water is still moving downstream before it hits eventually Lake Pontchartrain. And that is going to end up causing localized flooding all the way down, so a lot of people haven't seen the worst of it yet.

AUBREY: What's going to happen next week? For instance, are schools going to be able to open back up on Monday?

WOLD: LSU has already said that they're closed. I would assume many, many local school districts are going to close. We haven't gotten those announcements yet, but I'm assuming most of those will come in this afternoon.

AUBREY: Is this the worst you've ever seen in Baton Rouge?

WOLD: I've been here for 16 years and yes, this is the worst I've ever seen.

AUBREY: And how are the residents handling all this? It seems like everyone's pitching in to help each other out.

WOLD: Yeah. We've been through a lot of hurricanes, a lot of floods, and people here really do have a tendency to pull together.

AUBREY: That was Amy Wold, a reporter at The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La. Thanks so much for joining us.

WOLD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.