Acadiana area hit by heavy rains; more on the way

The first wave of a weather system that hit south Louisiana Wednesday morning brought widespread flooding from Lake Charles to southeast Louisiana and at least one death believed to have been caused by the storm.

The heavy rain in Acadiana forced Lafayette schools to dismiss students early, caused road flooding and put enough water into the Vermilion River to raise levels above flood stage at the point where it flows under the Surrey Street Bridge in Lafayette.

And it’s not over yet. More rain is expected over the next few days.

Rainfall totals for the Lafayette area overnight Tuesday and Wednesday morning were 6 to 7 inches, with about 10 inches reported along the border that separates Acadia and Lafayette parishes, said Kent Kuyper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.

Heavy rains Wednesday morning prompted public school officials in Lafayette and St. Landry parishes to let students out early.

Some Lafayette schools experienced minor flooding, school district spokeswoman Angela Morrison said.

For Thursday, which is the last scheduled day of the school year, Morrison said district officials will make a decision by 5 a.m. on whether to hold class.

Sheriff’s offices in the parishes of Lafayette, Iberia, Vermilion, St. Mary, Acadia and St. Martin reported no major accidents or main road closures.

In Carencro, Assistant Police Chief Dondi Harden said some rain gauges in the north Lafayette Parish city showed 7 to 10 inches of rainfall.

Harden said there were no reports of major property damage.

“The only thing we had with residences was the wakes caused by vehicles going down the road that was pushing water into the houses,” Darden said.

West of Lafayette, an early morning fire in Scott that destroyed a home was caused by lightning that struck at 1:30 a.m. as the rain moved through the area, Fire Chief Chad Sonnier said.

Residents in most parishes who wanted sandbags were able to fill them up and take them home.

In Iberia Parish, Emergency Preparedness Director Prescott Marshall said the rainfall Wednesday was not enough to warrant making sandbags available for residents.

“If the residents need them to protect their homes, we will issue them,” Prescott said.

Lafayette city-parish government also did not issue sandbags Wednesday. City-parish Public Works Director Tom Carroll did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Meteorologists in Lake Charles will continue to monitor the rainmaker still hovering over northwest Louisiana and portions of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, Kuyper said.

“It looks like (the rain’s) going to crank up again,” Kuyper said.

The culprit is an upper-level low in Texas, Arkansas and northern Louisiana bringing in wet air from the Gulf of Mexico and creating unstable conditions leading to thunderstorms, rain and at least one confirmed tornado, said Mike Hill, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell. The tornado touched down in Garyville in St. John the Baptist Parish, damaging the Marathon refinery.

Angela Graves, spokesperson for the refinery, said they are continuing to assess the damage, but the initial examination showed damage to a cooling water tower that serves part of the plant. As a result of the damage, a crude oil unit was shut down, but a second crude oil unit remains operating.

In Ascension Parish, 56-year-old Danny Deville, of Melville, was found dead under his truck in his employer’s flooded parking lot. Sheriff’s deputies said they believed he slipped and fell into swiftly moving water that swept him under the vehicle.

There were reports in Assumption Parish of concrete graves floating up in a Belle Rose graveyard, with some caskets escaping.

The rainy weather trend will continue for the next several days, as more rain is in the forecast for at least Thursday and Friday and possibly continuing into the weekend. How much more rain is hard to tell, Hill said.

“There’s an old saying: ‘upper-level low, weatherman’s woe,’ ” Hill said. These types of weather systems tend to bring a mixed bag of weather with them, and it can be difficult to predict what is in store for south Louisiana.

However, long-range forecasts for southeast Louisiana call for possibly 5 more inches of rain before this system clears out, said Barry Keim, state climatologist. That forecast could change, but it does give an indication that additional rainfall is on the way.

With that additional rainfall, some waterways in south Louisiana were showing much higher stages, according to the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center. Vermilion River in Lafayette and Carencro was in flood stage by Wednesday. Several rivers in the Hammond and Covington areas were either in flood stage or expected to get to flood stage by Thursday. That could change, depending on just how much rain certain areas of south Louisiana get in the coming days.

“We’re looking for at least three more days of rainfall,” Keim said.