Weather

Mar 22, 2012 6:36 AM by AP

Jindal declares emergency after tornadoes, floods

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Wednesday after strong thunderstorms dumped up to 15 inches of rain and sparked tornadoes throughout Louisiana.

No serious injuries were reported.

The governor's declaration came after nine Louisiana parishes issued similar orders.

Acadia, Beauregard, Claiborne, Jefferson Davis, Natchitoches, St. Charles, Union, Vermilion and Vernon parishes declared emergencies - a step needed to request federal help if damages turn out to be high enough to do so, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said.

The governor's order extends to April 20 unless terminated sooner.

Some emergencies were because of flooding, some because of possible tornadoes and at least one, in Calcasieu Parish, because the Calcasieu and Sabine rivers were expected to flood.

Road damage is the main reason for Union Parish's declaration, Police Jury President A.J. Smith said.

"We were very fortunate with this storm system" because most of the really heavy rain fell outside cities, said Jim Sweeney, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles. Southwest Louisiana had some serious flooding last week, and "no way close did we drain enough to prepare for this," he said.

Twisters hit Lake Arthur in Jefferson Davis Parish and Patterson in St. Mary Parish, but survey crews found that they were "minimal" and did minor damage, he said.

In Caldwell Parish, a tornado touched down about 8:30 a.m. about two miles south of Grayson, said meteorologist Aaron Stevens of the National Weather Service in Shreveport.

The tornado caused damage to about 20 homes and a mobile home, he said. It was unclear if it or straight-line winds damaged outbuildings and sheds near there and in Columbia, he said.

Leesville, the Vernon Parish seat, declared a separate emergency because three sewage lift stations flooded. "We had 16 inches of rain in a matter of a few hours. ... We had flooding in parts of the city that the old-timers can't remember seeing flood," Mayor Robert Rose said.

He said two of the flooded stations collect sewage for the entire city. "So when they go offline, everything starts backing up."

City residents were asked to go easy on the system. "There's no delicate way to say that except, 'Don't flush unless you have to," Rose said.

All three of the lift stations were working again by Wednesday evening, he said.

Camps, some of them raised, flooded near Anacoco Lake and Lake Vernon, said Vernon Parish chief Deputy Calvin Turner. He said most residents got out before the flood or in their own boats. A Department of Wildlife and Fisheries boat crew took four people from a house and a nearby trailer, department spokesman Adam Einck said.

People were advised to leave homes near Bundick's Lake in Beauregard Parish because the water there was expected to rise 8 to 10 feet above flood stage, said Chief Deputy Joe Toler.

The storms also spawned a possible tornado that damaged about 35 homes in Lake Arthur before heading toward the state's two biggest metropolitan areas, packing more possible whirlwinds.

Authorities did not report any injuries either in southwest Louisiana, where wind toppled trees and snatched up roofs between 5 and 6 a.m. Wednesday, or southeast of Baton Rouge, where Livingston and Ascension parish officials reported similar damage about midmorning.

When weather permits, crews were expected to go out to check on whether the winds were straight or twisters, National Weather Service meteorologists in Lake Charles and Slidell said.

An estimated 200 people in Lake Arthur were affected by a possible tornado reported about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, town clerk Cindy Mallett said. Police in the Jefferson Davis Parish city of 3,000 said some houses were knocked off their foundation blocks and others lost roofs or parts of roofs.

"We've got radar estimates of anywhere from 12 to 15 inches of rain across a swath of northern Calcasieu Parish into Beauregard Parish," said Donald Jones, a weather service meteorologist in Lake Charles. "The reason we had all this rainfall is it was sitting over top of us." Eastern Louisiana could get 2 to 4 inches of rain, he said, "but they're not going to be the huge numbers we saw over here during the night."

Although the squall line might move into Mississippi by Wednesday evening, Thursday and Friday were likely to be wet, said weather service meteorologist Frank Revitte in Slidell. "I think we'll probably get more into scattered rain shower activity on Friday," he said.

Rain also was likely Thursday over much of the rest of the state.

Heavy rains closed numerous school systems Wednesday.

In the New Orleans area, the Army Corps of Engineers closed floodgates on the west bank of Jefferson Parish, where it had closed other floodgates Tuesday.

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