Parts of Louisiana get an entire Seattle winter season of rain in 48 hours
There was an extraordinary meteorological event that occurred in the Bayou this week and weekend, as a stalled area of low pressure tapped into tropical moisture and brought catastrophic amounts of rain to parts of Louisiana.
Three people have been killed and thousands have had to be rescued as relentless rains led to widespread flooding to levels never before seen in that area. Entire neighborhoods were under water and over 100 cars have been stranded on a seven-mile stretch of a freeway near Baton Rouge due to flooded roads.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, calling the floods "unprecedented" and "historic." He and his family were even forced to leave the Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge when chest-high water filled the basement and electricity was shut off.
"That's never happened before," said the governor, whose family relocated to a state police facility in the Baton Rouge area.
During an aerial tour, an Associated Press reporter saw homes in parts of rural Tangipahoa Parish that looked like little islands among flooded fields. Farmland was covered and streets descended into impassable pools of water.
In the Livingston Parish city of Denham Springs, a suburb of Baton Rouge, entire shopping centers were inundated, only roofs of cars peeking above the water. And in many places, the water was still rising, with days expected before rivers were expected to crest.
"This is an ongoing event. We're still in response mode," Edwards said, urging residents to heed warnings to evacuate and be prepared for a disaster that could last for several days.
Earlier in the day, Edwards said more than 1,000 people had been rescued. That number appeared to at least double by the end of the day, when Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said 2,000 people in his parish alone had been rescued, and more people still await help.
"We haven't been rescuing people. We've been rescuing subdivisions," he said. "It has not stopped at all today."
Nearly an entire Seattle rainy season's worth of rain in two days:
Some towns and parishes have been setting rainfall records by wide margins. The town of Lafayette, in the heart of the wettest part of the storm, reported 10.39" of rain on Friday. It set the town's record of wettest day on record -- a record that would last all of one day because then Saturday topped that at 10.40 inches.
To put this in perspective, the combined 20.79" -- not counting even more rain falling Sunday -- is about what Seattle gets in an average Novemberplus Decemberplus Januaryplus February (20.99"). Baton Rouge wasn't too far behind at 16.71" over 48 hours.
The heavy rainfall was caused by an area of low pressure that formed just east of Louisiana, then drifted ever so slowly west and settled over west/central Louisiana Friday into the weekend. The low tapped into what one National Weather Service forecaster in Lake Charles deemed a "ridiculous" amount of Gulf moisture already in place over the region to make for hours upon hours of heavy rains.
Here is a forecast model from early in the storm that shows just how the storm stalled and kept swirling moisture into the region:
Louisiana is no stranger to heavy rains from tropical storms and hurricanes -- some of their all-time daily rainfall records range from 7-10 inches (the record had been 10.38", which went from 1st to 3rd in two days), but usually those systems don't stall.
Showers are still falling Sunday but the steady, heavy rains are finally abating. There will still be some rain at times through the week but nothing to the level of intensity they just experienced.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.