SHREVEPORT, La. (Reuters) - The death toll from storms in Southern U.S. states rose to five as storm-weary residents of Louisiana and Mississippi watched for more flooding on Monday from drenching rains that inundated homes, washed out roads and prompted thousands of rescues.
Flood waters across Louisiana were blamed for four deaths and damage to at least 5,000 homes, and one person drowned in a flooded area in Oklahoma last week. Flood warnings were in effect as rivers, bayous and creeks stayed high after storms dumped more than 20 inches of rain in some places.
In Louisiana, Harold Worsham, 78, drowned in Saline Bayou when his boat capsized as he tried to remove items from a home as waters rose on Saturday night, according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Many rivers and lakes in northern Louisiana have risen to historic levels and homes there face the threat of yet more flooding, said Matt Hemingway, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Shreveport.
“It’s going to take some time for them to fall back down below flood stage,” he said. “Some folks may be in this situation not just days but weeks.”
Authorities and meteorologists described the flooding as some of the worst seen in the region apart from that spawned by hurricanes. President Barack Obama declared flooding in Louisiana a major disaster on Sunday, activating federal aid.
The Louisiana National Guard said it had rescued more than 3,000 people and 300 pets.
Weldon Thomas, who lives in the Lake Bistineau area, said the flood was devastating for many of his neighbors.
“This is the worst flood that these people have ever seen, and some of them have been there 60 or 70 years,” he said. “It’s a tragic situation for everybody.”
In Bossier Parish, several feet of water covered low parts of normally busy Highway 71 and water rose to the top of road signs. Stranded livestock huddled on patches of dry land.
Emergency officials in Mississippi said flooding threatened to close interstates 59 and 10, which they warned could result in major traffic congestion.
As of Sunday afternoon, 185 homes were destroyed or significantly damaged in Mississippi and about 650 more sustained minor damage, according to the state.
Mandatory evacuation orders issued by authorities in the Texas county of Newton, which borders Louisiana, remained in effect for people living near the Sabine River over flood dangers.
Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins and Curtis Skinner; Editing by Dan Grebler and James Dalgleish