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SHAKE AND BLOW
'Unprecedented' floods kill at least 3 in southern US
By Jennie MATTHEW
New York (AFP) Aug 14, 2016


Obama declares emergency for flooded Louisiana
Washington (AFP) Aug 15, 2016 - US President Barack Obama issued Sunday a disaster declaration for flood-devastated Louisiana, where emergency workers have rescued more than 7,000 residents stranded in homes and cars, said the White House.

The action makes emergency federal funding available to support rescue crews working nonstop as deadly flooding ravages the state, disastrous weather that has left at least three dead and one missing, said officials.

"This is a serious event," Governor John Bel Edwards said of the "historic" record floods.

"This is ongoing," he added. "This is not over," even with the rains lessening as they move west and the sun appearing in some flooded areas.

The flooding submerged large parts of the region on Sunday, three days after water-swelled streams and rivers began rising.

Local, state and national agencies have been working together to rescue residents.

Thousands were evacuated in Livingston Parish, near the capital Baton Rouge, the sheriff's department told local media, with 100 people still waiting for help.

The Louisiana National Guard said it had rescued nearly 500 people and 61 pets, including 15 rescues by air.

The Coast Guard said its helicopters rescued more than 50 people from rooftops, vehicles and trailers on Saturday.

In one dramatic rescue in Baton Rouge captured on video, rescuers on a boat pulled a woman from a car that had just slipped under water.

The woman shouts, "Oh my God, I'm drowning!"

A rescuer jumps into the murky brown water and pulls her out by the arm. When she tries to dive under for her dog, he goes underwater and reappears holding the dog.

Most of the flooding has been around the capital Baton Rouge.

Edwards said he and his family were forced to leave the governor's mansion after water filled the basement, shutting off electricity.

"I have traveled to affected areas and have seen the destruction caused by this unprecedented flooding," he said.

"We are thankful for the federal government's quick response to our request for an emergency declaration. This is an ongoing event, and we are confident that every available state and federal resource will be brought to bear."

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings extending from the Texas coast to the Ohio River Valley.

"Showers and thunderstorms will develop along and near the front from the Northeast to the Ohio Valley to the Southern Plains/Lower Mississippi Valley through Tuesday," it said.

The heavy rains began Friday, with between six and 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) of rain falling on parts of southeast Louisiana, and several more inches on Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters predict the storm will turn north, saying parts of central and northern Louisiana and southern Texas may see heavy rain for several days.

Torrential rains have caused record flooding in parts of the southern United States, officials said on Saturday, with US media reporting at least three deaths.

Flooding in southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi shut down roads, cutting off at least one town as an area of low pressure slowly moved west along the Gulf Coast.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, calling the flooding "unprecedented."

"We have record levels of flooding along rivers and creeks," he told reporters during a news conference, urging residents who have been advised to evacuate to leave their homes.

Emergency services were transporting residents by high-water vehicles, boats and aircraft, he said. More than 1,000 residents had been evacuated in Louisiana, the authorities said.

The floods killed at least three people on Friday, media reported. Among them, a man in the Louisiana town of Zachary, near the capital Baton Rouge, drowned trying to escape flood waters, local television station WAFB reported.

"We were walking out and he slipped and fell," his roommate Vernon Drummond told the station. "He went under the water. We tried to save him, but we couldn't."

The area recorded 10 to 15 inches (25.4 to 38.1 cm) of rain, David Roth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told AFP. Another 10 inches were expected in parts of Louisiana over the next two days.

"Even for them it's very unusual," Roth said.

- One of worst storms 'ever' -

Layton Ricks, president of Livingston parish in the Baton Rouge area, told reporters that "we're experiencing one of the worst storm events we've ever had, with flash flooding."

Roads that had never flooded were under water, he said, adding that the backlog of people waiting to be rescued.

The National Weather Service reported Saturday afternoon that the storming had "resulted in catastrophic flash flooding across Louisiana," and was continuing to produce very heavy rainfall.

The threat of heavy rain would expand westward with "at least a slight risk of flash flooding tonight over a large area from the southern plains to the mid-Mississippi/Ohio valleys and even the Northeast," the National Weather Service said.

Showers and thunderstorms would continue into Sunday and Monday, it predicted.

Entergy Louisiana said more than 11,700 customers were affected by power outages as of Saturday evening.

On the East Coast, meanwhile, millions of American residents were sweating through a heat wave amid extreme weather warnings in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington.

The combination of heat and humidity would make it feel as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) in those cities.

Temperatures would be 5 to 15 degrees above average on Sunday across much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, the National Weather Service said.

Authorities warned of heat-related health problems, especially for the elderly and those with chronic health problems, and for people who work outdoors.

Americans were advised to stay inside and use air conditioning where possible, check on vulnerable friends and neighbors, drink plenty of fluids, and not leave children or pets unattended in vehicles.

Overall, the heat wave stretched from southwest Ohio to western Virginia and Washington, and north through Philadelphia, New York and Boston, the National Weather Service's Roth said.

jm-nov-grf-bfm/tm


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