Days of severe flooding caused by torrential rainfall across southern US states have left at least 4 people dead and over 6,000 homes damaged.
Floods first struck parts of Louisiana and Texas on 08 March following torrential rain as a result of a slow moving area of low pressure that pumped moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi and Oklahoma have also been badly affected.
Last week, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in 16 parishes in the northern part of the state. The rain and flooding has since continued and on Thursday, 10 March, he amended that declaration to include the entire state.
In a statement of 14 March, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) said that 6,143 structures have suffered flood damage across the state. This total is expected to climb as more parishes compile data. New problems are still being reported in some regions as river levels continue to climb.
The National Guard said it had evacuated over 4,000 people from flooded areas. About 1,200 Louisiana Army and Air National Guard members have been mobilized and are working with local partners to support the mission, said Air Force Col. Pete Schneider, the state public affairs officer for the Louisiana National Guard.
At last tally, Schneider said, Louisiana Guardsmen had rescued 4,255 people and 354 pets and had issued nearly 72,000 bottles of water, more than a million sandbags, 700 cots, and hundreds of packaged meals.
“A lot of these Guardsmen are doing lifesaving in their own neighborhoods, so they’re serving in the communities where they live,” he said. “We are in every part of the state. We’re actually in 33 parishes in the state.”
Major Disaster Declared
On 13 March, President Obama declared a major disaster for the State of Louisiana. Initially this was for the parishes of Bossier, Claiborne, Grant, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, and Webster, but has since been expanded to include an additional 16 parishes.
“This expanded declaration will provide much needed resources for Louisiana families in serious need of assistance during such a challenging time,” said Gov. Edwards. “My administration and officials across the state will continue to work together to help every citizen in need.”
The water has started to recede from some flooded areas around in Bossier parish, which was one of the worst and first hit areas. However elsewhere there is a fear that the Pearl River will continue to rise, leading to additional flooding.
A view of water along I-59 and the Pearl river that's threatening I-10. pic.twitter.com/nbzMxnQOrD
— Shawn Wilson, Ph.D. (@onevisionary) March 15, 2016
Louisiana Parishes Affected by the Floods
Bossier, Claiborne, Grant, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, Webster, Beauregard, Bienville, Caddo, Caldwell, DeSoto, LaSalle, Livingston, Madison, Natchitoches, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Union, Vernon, Washington, West Carroll and Winn.
Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, declared a State of Emergency for 17 counties on 14 March as flooding continued to impact parts of East and Southeast Texas.
“Flooding resulting from historic rainfall in East Texas is having a significant impact on residents,” said Governor Abbott. “The State of Texas continues to do everything it can to assist all the counties affected by this severe weather, and my thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted. I want to thank the first responders for their quick response to this disaster and ask that residents heed the warnings of local officials, particularly concerning evacuation notices.”
Texas Counties Affected by the Floods
The counties affected are: Angelina, Erath, Gregg, Hardin, Harrison, Hood, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Marion, Newton, Orange, Parker, Sabine, San Augustine, and Tyler.
Sabine River Levels Break 130 Year Record
Meanwhile levels of the Sabine River at Deweyville, eastern Texas, broke all records, reaching 33.24 feet early on 16 March 2016. The previous record high was 32.20 feet, set on 01 May 1884. Flood stage for the Sabine River at Deweyville is 24 feet and major flood stage 28 feet. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in Deweyville.
Interstate 10 Closed
US Department of Transportation officials said that the nearby Interstate 10 was closed at the Texas-Louisiana border on 15 March as a result of flooding from the swollen Sabine River.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a disaster declaration for 16 counties that have been hit hardest by heavy rainfall. Emergency personnel reported multiple water rescues.
The affected counties are: Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Chicot, Cleveland, Columbia, Desha, Drew, Jefferson, Lincoln, Monroe, Ouachita, Phillips, Prairie and Scott.
Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency on 10 March for areas affected by flooding and issued an executive order mobilizing the Mississippi National Guard to assist with any needed high-water rescues.
According to the National Weather Service, parts of Mississippi received eight to 10 inches of rain in 24 hours to 10 March.
“I have declared a state of emergency to assist local officials with any available state resources,” said Gov. Bryant. “It is important for Mississippians to remember the phrase ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown.’”
The Mississippi State Emergency Operations Center said that initial damage reports show 185 homes destroyed or sustained major damage and a total of 649 with minor damage or affected with assessments still ongoing. Officials added that there are no injuries or deaths being reported but two fishermen are still missing in Claiborne County.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Shreveport, Louisiana reported that 20.39 inches of rain fell in Taylortown, Bossier Parish, between 08 and 12 March and over 24 inches fell during the same period in Monroe, Ouachita. Hemphill in Sabine County, East Texas, saw 18.60 inches.
NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission has been monitoring the rainfall.
At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a merged satellite rainfall analysis (TMPA) using data collected from March 7 to 14, 2016 was created and made into an image and 3-D animation.
The TMPA product uses climatology to calibrate multi-satellite precipitation data. The image showed that the heaviest rainfall stretched from northern Louisiana into south central Arkansas.
NOAA’s National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center said on 14 March, 2016, that “after days of heavy rainfall and flooding across Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley, the pattern will be changing as the deep moisture feed from the Gulf of Mexico weakens. River levels will remain quite high across this region as all of the rain water slowly drains away”
Photos of the Floods in Louisiana
Longview, Gregg County, Texas - March 8 to March 9, 2016
Nesbitt, Harrison County, Texas - March 8 to March 9, 2016
Sabine River, Deweyville, Texas - March 16, 2016
Taylortown, Bossier Parish, Louisiana - March 8 to March 9, 2016