Obama Signs Emergency Declaration for Louisiana, Thousands Rescued from Flooding

PRAIRIEVILLE, Louisiana — Flooding in Louisiana over the weekend forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, including more than 7,000 who had to be rescued according to Gov. John Bel Edwards. The devastating flooding has also claimed at least five lives.

More than 24 inches of rain have fallen since Wednesday in Livingston, near Baton Rouge, making the disaster an extremely rare weather event, according to the National Weather Service. The statistical chance of such flooding occurring in any given year is 1%, the weather service said.

On Sunday night, President Obama granted Edward’s request for 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. Military police are assisting local law enforcement with security.

Private citizens also contributed to search and rescue efforts.

On Sunday in the town of Galvez-Lake near the Amite River, a frantic Christy Bourgeois and her husband Tom prepared a fan boat to assist a nearby flooded home. “The last I heard my sister was there and it was on fire,” she said.

Nearby, victims were salvaging toys, clothes and other belongings from their flooded homes. Down Highway 431, desperate families gathered at a gas station, pickup trucks loaded with belongings, waiting for water in their homes to recede. Not far away, Jeremy Best said he and Henri Dufrane brought their small boat from nearby Wallace to help people escape their flooded houses.

Best said the water is still rising.

“It’s coming up fast, man,” said Best, who was wearing little more than shorts and a pair of boat shoes. “And it’s only going to get worse.” Elsewhere, a rescue caught on video showed three men in a boat pulling a woman out of her submerged car as it filled with water. They even managed to save her dog.

Communities band together

The dead include an unidentified 30-year-old woman whose body was recovered Saturday afternoon in St. Helena Parish, police said. She was traveling with her husband and mother when their vehicle was swept away by the flood. Her mother and husband were rescued.

Another victim, Samuel Muse, 54, of Greensburg, died Friday after he tried to drive through high water and floodwaters swept his vehicle off the road, CNN affiliate WAFB reported.

Also Friday, a 68-year-old man drowned when he slipped and fell in flood waters in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Ray Cutrer told CNN that the flood seemed to come out of nowhere. His daughter, who lived next door, thought they might get a bit of water in the house but didn’t fear a deluge.

“Our guard was down,” he said. “And then it was a matter of just watching the water continually rise.”

By midnight Friday they were storing furniture and valuables in the attic and carrying what they could over the back property line as water filled the road.

When they returned on Saturday, Cutrer’s house had escaped damage but his daughter’s was devastated. She and her husband will live with him and his wife until repairs are done, he said.

Another washed-out neighbor is staying with Cutrer’s brother.

He made a promise to help others when he found his house safe, he said.

“I said, ‘Lord, I will be here to help the ones who did,’ and I am. I will be right here. We’ll help them every way that we can,” he said. “That is the way we can give back to this community.”

CNN’s Keith Allen and Kevin Conlon contributed to this story.

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