Storms, heavy rain blamed for five deaths, Louisiana officials say

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, May 20, 2021

Stormy weather that has pounded Louisiana this week is now blamed for five deaths, with four of the fatalities involving motor vehicles and floodwaters, the state health department said Thursday.

One death involved a power outage that caused a failure of oxygen equipment for a 76-year-old man in East Baton Rouge Parish, the department said in an email. The other deaths were a 33-year-old man found dead in a flooded vehicle in East Baton Rouge Parish; a man, 44, whose car ran into a flooded canal in West Baton Rouge Parish; a man, 61, found in a submerged car in Calcasieu Parish; and a 46-year-old man whose vehicle crashed while traveling through floodwaters.

In each case, the health department said, local coroners classified the deaths as storm-related.

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Rain has caused flash flooding in parts of east Texas and south Louisiana since Monday. Southwest Louisiana, still recovering from two hurricanes last year, has been especially hard hit.

National Weather Service radar showed rain continuing to roll inland from the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday afternoon. Forecasters said southwest Louisiana and east Texas could see another 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of rain in the next few days.

“Tomorrow, it should start drying out in Baton Rouge, but the system is going to be moving west,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Thursday news conference at the state Capitol. That meant more potential problems for Lake Charles and the rest of southwest Louisiana.

Edwards encouraged people who sustained damage from flooding or other severe weather to report it through the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness’ online damage assessment at Nearly 900 residents had done so since Monday, the governor’s office said.

Edward said it was too early to tell whether there would be enough damage to reach a level that would trigger federal aid.