March 21, 2012 / 11:25 PM / 6 years ago

Louisiana braces for flooding, storms head for Mississippi

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Coastal areas of Mississippi were on alert Wednesday afternoon as a line of heavy thunderstorms threatened to stall there after passing through Louisiana, which was bracing for flooding in the storm’s aftermath.

The storm system swept quickly through southeastern Louisiana, dumping less than two inches of rain on New Orleans, but leaving the likelihood of major flooding in western and west-central Louisiana.

Southern Mississippi residents “can expect quite a bit of heavy rain into the evening and overnight,” National Weather Service forecaster Robert Ricks said. Highway 603 in Hancock County, Mississippi, was covered with water late on Wednesday afternoon, Ricks said. A portion of Interstate 55 was closed for a short time because of winds that left downed trees and power lines on the road, he said. The weather service had a few reports of homes being flooded in the DeQuincy area of southwestern Louisiana as the system moved eastward through Louisiana on Wednesday. Downed trees and roof damage to some homes in the state’s Livingston and Ascension parishes suggested that a tornado may have touched down, and crews were investigating, Ricks said. Though light to moderate rain could affect areas to the west of the storm through the night, “the worst of the weather appears to have left Louisiana,” Ricks said. However, residual flooding around the Calcasieu River in Louisiana could affect western and west-central Louisiana residents for as much as a week, according to weather service forecaster Jim Sweeney in Lake Charles. He said the slow-moving river is filling with runoff from nearly a foot of rain that hit the area on Tuesday night, and major flooding of homes in the immediate vicinity of the river was expected in coming days. Water up to three feet deep could cover Highway 394 near Bundick Lake in Beauregard Parish on Wednesday night, and the water would likely flood “numerous homes and camps” along the lake, he said. Some 50 homes in the Oakdale area could flood when the Calcasieu River rises to an expected five feet above flood stage by early Friday morning, and the water will continue to rise through the weekend, Sweeney said. Homes and roads in the Glenmora area of southern Rapides Parish and in the Kinder area, near Lake Charles, likely will be affected as the river gradually rises to a crest, possibly in a week, he said.

Heavy rainfall occurred overnight across central Louisiana, with Natchitoches Parish hit especially hard. Southwest of the city of Natchitoches, 10.3 inches of rain were reported, said hydrologist C.S. Ross of the National Weather Service. In Natchitoches, an apartment complex was flooded and the Cane River Lake overflowed its banks in the downtown area. Up to six inches of rain hit the southwestern Louisiana communities of Vinton, Singer and Starks.

Much of central Arkansas had four to five inches of rain on Tuesday night, with six inches reported in Mountain Home. Some hail damage and downed trees were reported in Baxter County in north-central Arkansas, and in Morrilton in central part of the state.

Forecaster Joe Sellers in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, station of the National Weather Service said between two and four inches of rain fell in the region overnight, with isolated reports of up to eight inches in a swath across northeastern Oklahoma into northwestern Arkansas.

Editing by Corrie MacLaggan

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