30 Louisiana Parishes to Be Declared Disasters

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 8/16/2016, 8:38 a.m.
Jessica May escaped New Orleans days before Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and made a new life in Baton Rouge, ...
Gretna Police Deputy Chief Anthony Christiana tells CNN they are utilizing four or five military vehicles (5 ton transport vehicles) to assist with the flooding situation in Baton Rouge, LA. 22 personnel are also there to support the rescue mission of thousands of people stranded in floodwaters. Christiana says they also sent down three or four rescue boats and additional support vehicles.

By Emanuella Grinberg, Thom Patterson, Kevin Conlon and Boris Sanchez

CNN

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (CNN) -- Jessica May escaped New Orleans days before Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and made a new life in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. All was going well until one month ago, when her home went up in flames, she said.

After the fire, she and her partner, Denard Singleton, moved with their six kids, ages 10 to 4, into Singleton's parents' home in Denham Springs

Then, on August 13, she had to flee rising waters once again -- this time, from the Amite River.

May and her family were among tens of thousands of people forced from their homes this weekend in the state's historic and deadly flood.

More than 20 inches of rain have fallen in and around Baton Rouge since last week, and more is on the way, forecasters said. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected to continue through the week. The National Weather Service posted flood warnings through Tuesday afternoon.

The disaster is blamed for at least nine deaths. By CNN's count, based on contact with officials in affected parishes, six deaths were confirmed in East Baton Rouge Parish, two in St. Helena Parish and one in Tangipahoa Parish.

The U.S. Coast Guard and other first responders rescued more than 20,000 people over the weekend. Civilians helped out in some cases. In one remarkable example captured on video, David Phung pulled a woman and her dog from her car after it had plunged underwater.

May and her family were among those rescued. As they made their way up Airline Avenue, bracing against rushing floodwater, they were rescued by boat and later transported by first responders in a truck.

They arrived at a shelter in Baton Rouge.

"We had to get to higher ground," she said. "We just left."

Rescue by helicopter

The Coast Guard said it had rescued more than 118 people and assisted more than 766 in Baton Rouge on Sunday.

A team led by Coast Guard helicopter pilot Lt. Mike Hennebery picked up two people from the second-story porch of a Baton Rouge house.

The chopper dropped a swimmer down to help reel the two up, while Hennebery kept the aircraft hovering about 100 feet above the ground despite low clouds and wind blowing obstacles into nearby trees, he said.

The disaster forced the closure of schools in East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. James and Tangipahoa parishes as well as Louisiana State University.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama granted Edwards' request for an emergency declaration to assist in response and recovery efforts. So far, the governor has deployed the Louisiana National Guard, which mobilized 1,700 soldiers to assist in search and rescue efforts. Military police are assisting local law enforcement with security.

The governor said he expects to have close to 30 parishes declared disasters -- nearly half of the state's 64 parishes.

"We're going to have standing water all over south Louisiana," Edwards told CNN. "We're going to have more than our share of mosquitoes. And with the Zika threat, we need assistance to spray for mosquitoes and for mosquito control and abatement. That is made available to us as a result of the declaration."