USA – Louisiana Rivers at Record Levels, President Declares Major Disaster

River levels in Louisiana have exceeded previous records in at least 8 different locations in southern areas of the state. Levels of the Amite River at Magnolia reached almost 7 feet (2.13 metres) higher than the previous record.

The floods have left at least 5 people dead after a further 2 fatalities were reported yesterday. Two fatalities occurred in separate incidents in East Baton Rouge Parish, two in separate incidents in St. Helena Parish and one in Tangipahoa Parish.

Approximately 20,000 people have been rescued from cars and homes so far, with rescue operation still ongoing. In a press conference yesterday, Governor Edwards said “we are still in the response phase”. Emergency rescue teams made up of police, firefighters, local disaster officials, state agencies, National Guard and volunteers have worked tirelessly to keep residents safe.

Photo: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal
Photo: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal
Photo: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal
Photo: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal
Photo: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal
Photo: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal

Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has provided approximately 717,000 sandbags, 117,504 bottles of water and 5,760 ready meals for victims. Over 50 shelters have been set up to accommodate those displaced by the flooding. Some reports claim that around 10,000 people are currently staying in the shelters. A list of the shelters can be found here.

Around 200 roads have been closed during the flooding and over 1,400 bridges need to be inspected before they are reopened to traffic.

In a press conference on 14 August, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said that the storm has subsided in intensity and moved west, with lighter rainfall. However, the ground is so saturated, any further rainfall could result in further flooding. He added that the flood water in rivers is moving south, and that more areas could see flooding as a result.

The severity of the situation prompted Governor Edwards to request the federal government to declare the floods a major disaster.

Major Disaster Declared for the State of Louisiana

On 14 August, the Louisiana Governor announced that the federal government declared a major disaster for the state of Louisiana. Following a tour of several parishes with a FEMA official, Gov. Edwards requested that President Barack Obama make the declaration. The initial federal declaration is for the parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Helena, East Baton Rouge and Livingston. Additional parish declarations will be made as further damage assessments are conducted.

“I have traveled to affected areas and have seen the destruction caused by this unprecedented flooding,” said Gov. Edwards. “We are thankful for the federal government’s quick response to our request for an emergency declaration. This is an ongoing event, and we are confident that every available state and federal resource will be brought to bear. I fully expect that more parishes will be added to the declaration on a rolling basis.”

Record River Levels

The intense rainfall in southern areas of the state have caused several rivers to overflow. As of 15 August, there were 10 rivers at flood stage across 17 locations. The rivers at flood stage are the Tickfaw, Amite, Comite, Calcasieu, Vermilion, Mermentau, Tangipahoa, Pearl, Bogue Chitto and Tchefuncte.

Levels of some of the rivers have crested in some areas and started to fall. There is still a worry that the flood water will move downstream and caused further flooding. So far, river levels have exceeded previous records in at least 8 different locations:

amite river Bayou Manchac Image: NOAA
Levels of the Amite River at Bayou Manchac. Image: NOAA
amite river magnolia Image: NOAA
Levels of the Amite River at Magnolia Image: NOAA
amite river denham springs Image: NOAA
Levels of the Amite River at Denham Springs Image: NOAA
tickfaw river liverpool Image: NOAA
Levels of the Tickfaw River at Liverpool Image: NOAA
tickfaw river montpelier Image: NOAA
Levels of the Tickfaw River at Montpelier Image: NOAA
tickfaw river holden Image: NOAA
Levels of the Tickfaw River at Holden Image: NOAA
comite river comite joor road Image: NOAA
Levels of the Comite River near Comite Joor Road. Image: NOAA
Tangipahoa river robert Image: NOAA
Levels of the Tangipahoa River at Robert. Image: NOAA

Rainfall

The heavy rainfall started to fall on Friday, 12 August, when a slow moving low pressure system dumped high levels of rain in a relatively small area.

NWS New Orleans reported that the Livingston Cooperative Weather Observer recorded 17.09 inches (434 mm) of rain between midnight and 15.00 on 12 August. Most of the 17 inches of rain fell during the morning of 12 August.

According to other NWS New Orleans figures, Baton Rouge recorded 11.79 inches (299 mm) of rain in 24 hours to 07.00, 13 August, New Iberia 11.33 inches (283 mm) and Lafayette 7.96 inches (202 mm).

Further heavy rain fell on 13 August, and several areas have seen over 20 inches of rain since the storm began.

The area of low pressure has since moved west and has brought some heavy rain to areas of eastern Texas.

Rainfall for Louisiana, 12 August 2016. Image: NOAA
Rainfall for Louisiana, 12 August 2016. Image: NOAA
Rainfall for Louisiana, 13 August 2016. Image: NOAA
Rainfall for Louisiana, 13 August 2016. Image: NOAA
Rainfall for Louisiana and Texas, 14 August 2016. Image: NOAA
Rainfall for Louisiana and Texas, 14 August 2016. Image: NOAA

Flood summary

Last updated: August 19, 2016
Event
Louisiana, USA, August 2016
Date
August 12, 2016
Type
Flash flood, River flood
Cause
Extreme rainfall
A slow moving low pressure system dumped high levels of rain in a relatively small area in southern Louisiana from 12 August 2016.

Locations

A - Ascension
B - East Baton Rouge
C - East Feliciana
D - Iberia
E - Iberville
F - Livingston
G - St. Helena
H - St. James
I - St. Tammany
J - Tangipahoa
K - Washington
L - Lafayette
M - St. Martin
N - West Baton Rouge

Magnitude

Rainfall level
434 mm in 24 hours
Livingston - August 12 to August 13, 2016
Rainfall level
299 mm in 24 hours
Baton Rouge - August 12 to August 13, 2016
Rainfall level
283 mm in 24 hours
New Iberia - August 12 to August 13, 2016
Rainfall level
202 mm in 24 hours
Lafayette - August 12 to August 13, 2016

Damages

Fatalities
13 people
August 12 to August 16, 2016
East Baton Rouge Parish – 5 Tangipahoa Parish – 3 St. Helena Parish – 2 Livingston Parish - 2 Rapides Parish - 1