BY bob anderson
Advocate staff writer
September 03, 2012
HEAD OF ISLAND — Livingston Parish is experiencing the worst flooding it has seen since 1983, Parish President Layton Ricks said Friday night.
Wind and water from Hurricane Isaac has damaged thousands of homes, Sheriff Jason Ard said, adding that he has never seen flooding as bad in the southern part of the parish as was occurring Friday.
Officials said they won’t know for days, or possibly weeks, how many homes flooded.
As of Friday evening, deputies and Louisiana National Guard troops had rescued about 100 people trapped by floodwater, Ard said.
Some areas, such as the community of Whitehall, remained surrounded by water Friday evening.
Earlier on Friday, two Louisiana National Guard trucks plowed through three miles of water on La. 22 to deliver groceries to residents stranded in Whitehall.
Along the way, the trucks passed homes, businesses and the Livingston Parish Fire District 9 Station, all with several feet of water inside.
At Manny’s Bar, a crowd stood in ankle-deep water on a raised porch.
Many in the crowd pleaded for the trucks to travel slowly and not cause a wake that would shove more water into the structure.
A line of vehicles stood parked on a long, narrow strip of high ground near the bar. Several boats were tied to the building.
Not far away, a man stood on his balcony with a rifle motioning for vehicles creeping by to slow down.
For much of the trip to Whitehall, the drivers negotiated a roadway that looked more like a river. The only markings of a path were trees on either side.
“It’s a lot easier in the daytime,” Perry Rushing, chief of operations for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, said of the slow drive.
Deputies and National Guard troops rescued dozens of people Wednesday and Thursday on La. 22 and other roadways.
During one rescue operation Wednesday night, an armored vehicle turned over after running off an inundated road. All six people inside escaped without injury as the vehicle rolled over and sank, Rushing said.
While en route with the groceries Friday afternoon, the National Guard trucks passed another large military vehicle carrying evacuees in the opposite direction. That truck towed a boat containing three law enforcement officers.
The officers have been running the boat to homes to pick up stranded people and bring them to the truck, Rushing said.
The trip from Head of Island to Whitehall would normally only take a few minutes. The one-way trek took more than two hours on the flooded roadway and in a heavy rain.
The trip back took even longer as trucks had to reroute to handle rescue calls.
The rescues continued into the evening. Some involved people with medical conditions. Others involved people who had chosen not to evacuate earlier and who had already spent a couple of nights cut off from the rest of the world.
Officials said they have no numbers on how many people evacuated their Livingston Parish homes.
Ricks said he expected the number of rescue calls to fall off Saturday.
In some spots, the floodwater receded slightly Friday, but officials said the Amite River won’t crest until Saturday.
They said tides appear to be cooperating in allowing water to flow out.
It will be days before water drains completely from the southern part of the parish, Ard said.
The good news is that rain north of Livingston Parish doesn’t appear to have been heavy enough to cause a larger, second crest, Ricks said.
Though much of the flooding occurred near the Amite River, areas near the Tickfaw River and Lake Maurepas also suffered.
In the heart of Springfield, Main Street flooded. The Springfield Cemetery sat in the midst of that lake. Some gravesites were completely submerged.
Stacy and Sherry Sibley said their trailer, located on a swamp connected to the Tickfaw River, had flooded before, but not like this.
They said most of the flooding occurred overnight Thursday, a day after the hurricane passed the area.
“It’s never flooded that bad,” Sherry Sibley said.
Nearby, Susan Shaffett said she got her mother out of their home because her mother had to have oxygen and the power went out to their home.
Flash flooding also occurred in other parts of the parish, Ricks said.
Advocate staff writer
Charles Lussier contributed
to this report.