New Orleans: Heavy downpours pounded parts of the central US Gulf Coast on Saturday, forcing the rescue of dozens of people stranded in homes by waist-high water and leaving one man dead who became trapped by floodwaters.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency as rescue workers in the southeastern part of the state braced for more precipitation through the weekend. Edwards was scheduled to return to Louisiana later on Saturday to deal with the situation. He had been in Colorado for a meeting of the Democratic Governors Association.
Numerous rivers in southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi were overflowing their banks and threatening widespread flooding after extreme rainfall that began on Friday, the National Weather Service reported.
A spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office said one man died on Saturday after slipping into a flooded ditch near the city of Zachary. Casey Rayborn Hicks identified the victim as 68-year-old William Mayfield. His body was found around noon on Saturday.
William "Beau" Clark, the parish coroner, ruled the death "an accidental drowning." Mike Steele, a spokesman for the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said requests were coming in for high-water vehicles, boats and sandbags.
Tangipahoa Parish in the state alone requested tens of thousands of sandbags. A flood watch remains in effect through Sunday morning across most of south Louisiana. The weather service said in a statement that an additional 3 to 5 inches could fall over the area.
In south Alabama, a flood watch was in effect today as rain fell in the Mobile area. The Comite River near Baton Rouge and Amite River near Denham Springs, both in Louisiana, were predicted to set record crests over the weekend. Forecaster Alek Krautmann said both rivers could flood many houses in suburban areas near Baton Rouge.
He also said that flooding downstream in Ascension Parish is a threat, as those swollen rivers will be slow to drain into Lake Maurepas. The Tickfaw River, just south of the Mississippi state line in Liverpool, Louisiana, was already at the highest level ever recorded at 9 am on Saturday.
Rescuers were still plucking people from floodwaters in Amite and Wilkinson counties in southwest Mississippi. Leroy Hansford, his wife and stepson were among those rescued earlier today near Gloster.