DISASTERS

Louisiana braces for Harvey, threat of Katrina-like flooding

As Louisiana braced to be hit by tropical storm Harvey, which has caused death and destruction in neighboring Texas, many of the state's residents still live with the memory of Hurricane Katrina's devastating floods 12 years ago.

Harvey has already pounded neighborhoods in southwestern Louisiana – near the Texas line – prompting the rescue mission of hundreds of people on the anniversary of Katrina and putting key institutions on alert, fearing the worst has yet to come to the Pelican State.

Around 500 people were forced to evacuate overnight from Calcasieu Parish following heavy rains that pushed waterways out of their bank, according to parish spokesman Tom Hoefer.

He said about 5,000 residents were affected by the flooding, although not all them saw their homes flooded.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, meanwhile, told residents to remain at home Tuesday, alerting of possible threat of floods. Schools, universities and a medical school were shut down as a precaution.

A march and a ceremony to commemorate the 2005 storm was delayed until Sunday.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said authorities were responding well to situation near the state’s borders.

“You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us, but with the people in this room, I’m confident we can handle it,” he said.

The devastating flood that struck Texas, with a death toll reaching 30, according to the New York Times, has brought back memories for survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which made the landfall on the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005.

“It really evoked a lot of emotions and heartbreak for the people who are going through that now in Houston,” said Ray Gratia, whose home in New Orleans was flooded by Katrina.

But despite potentially worsening conditions in Louisiana, many residents were carrying on with their normal routines.

Jerry Roppolo, 65, an owner of a trendy coffee house where water frequently reaches the threshold during heavy rains, said he “can’t afford not to open.”

Normally busy, this Tuesday the coffee house was rather empty, with Roppolo suggesting it has got to do with school closures. “A lot of the parents come in on the way to school, on the way from school,” he said.

Some evacuated residents from southwestern Louisiana returned to their homes Tuesday morning, collecting valuables and checking their homes for flood damage.

“I wanted to get my mother’s Bible out of the house and there were some things we needed — our medicine, we’re both on medications,” said David Wells, 65. “I got a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets any better.”

Evacuations, however, continued Tuesday in rural areas outside Lake Charles. Authorities were focused on deserting the most flood-prone neighborhoods, especially near the town of Iowa. Residents living near the Mermentau River and Bayou Nezpique were told to leave by the Acadia Parish officials.

According to a spokesman for Gov. Edwards, there were no reported Harvey-related deaths in Louisiana so far.

The next few days will be the key challenge to the state. Harvey was expected to make landfall Wednesday in Cameron Parish, in southwest Louisiana, said National Weather Service meteorologists.

In western Louisiana, meanwhile, as much as 6 to 12 more inches of rain could fall.

“We are starting to get down to the end of the tunnel of all this rain,” said Roger Erickson, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

He warned that some coastal rivers will not be capable to drain heavy rains as Harvey’s winds, which could be between 40 mph and 50 mph depending on the area, are moving the storm into coastal waters and further exacerbating the flooding of the areas that already have more than 20 inches of rain.

Mike Shields, a forecaster with the National Weather Service's Slidell office, projected that conditions will start improving Thursday as the storm moves further inland, NOLA.com reported.

With Harvey gone, the chances of rain will decrease dramatically – to slightly above 40 percent over Labor Day weekend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.