MOSS BLUFF, Lousiana — Bands of heavy rain from Harvey lashed southwest Louisiana on Monday, ratcheting up fears of destructive flooding in some storm-weary communities.
Floodwaters covered roads and crept toward homes in Brenda Bradley’s neighborhood in Moss Bluff, a Lake Charles suburb in Calcasieu Parish. Bradley, 72, and her husband, Jimmie, had stacked sandbags at their doors. The rising water was lapping at the steps to their back porch Monday morning.
“We’ve got to try to save what we can,” Bradley said. “We’re in our 70s and there’s no way we can lift all (our) furniture up.”
President Donald Trump issued a federal emergency declaration on Monday for five parishes in southwest Louisiana: Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermillion. More areas can be added later.
A White House statement says the action authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts. The declaration also authorizes the federal government to cover 75 percent of costs of certain emergency protective measures.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards requested the declaration in a letter to the White House on Sunday.
“Significant lifesaving efforts such as search and rescue, transportation to shelters, logistical support, and shelter operations will be particularly needed in parts of southwest Louisiana and can be supported by the federal government with an emergency declaration,” the governor wrote.
Harvey, the most fearsome hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade, came ashore late Friday about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, as a Category 4 storm. The slow-moving storm has caused catastrophic flooding in Texas.
Louisiana also is assisting Texas, sending teams of 30 wildlife and fisheries agents with 30 boats to join search-and-rescue efforts across state lines. The caravan of Louisiana agents was on its way to the Houston area on Monday morning after spending the night in Beaumont, Texas.
Tornado and flash flood watches covered parts of southwest Louisiana as Harvey dropped torrential rains on that part of the state.
An emergency response official in coastal Cameron Parish said the threat of flooding from Harvey’s torrential rains could be “new ground for us.” Danny Lavergne, director of Cameron Parish’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said approximately 30 roads in the parish were covered with water but remained passable on Monday morning. Elevated homes didn’t appear to be at risk of flooding Monday, according to Lavergne.
But he added it was “early in the game,” with more heavy rain in the forecast.
“It’s far from being over,” he said.
Cameron Parish has roughly 6,800 residents living in the coastal community, which was devastated by storm surge from Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008. This time, Lavergne says the greatest threat is the sheer volume of rainwater.
“We don’t know how fast we can drain this (water) off. It’s new ground for us,” he said.
Kent Kuyper, a Nation Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, said approximately 5 to 10 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain were expected to fall Monday in southwest Louisiana.
Bradley’s Moss Bluff home hasn’t flooded since 2006, when seven inches of water damaged the two-story house. But she has had other close calls: Flooding from a storm in May damaged her 86-year-old next-door neighbor’s home.
“Now she’s out of her home again and praying it doesn’t flood again,” Bradley said.