News for Friday 031116
By Dave Graichen
Flash flood warnings remain in effect as more rain is expected to be dumped on Louisiana today and into tomorrow. State Climatologist Barry Keim says that while the greatest rain totals so far have been in northern Louisiana, southeastern Louisiana will be most affected today and tomorrow. Keim says as of now there is a low probability of high wind, hail, and tornadoes, but heavy rain and flooding is still a substantial risk.
Most area schools will be closed today due to the threat of more heavy rains. In Cenla, All public schools have opted to play it safe and close. Central Louisiana Technical Community College campuses in Alexandria, Jena, Leesville and Winnfield, LSUA and all Northwestern State University campuses are closed. A complete list can be found on the Town Talks website.
Governor John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency for 22 parishes and activated 750 National Guard members to help combat the widespread flooding in north Louisiana. State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson says the water continues to rise and the storm is shifting into southeast Louisiana. He says if you don’t need to be out on the road, don’t go out and sightsee.
In Bienville parish, Sheriff John Balance says the flood waters turned fatal in a small community just east of Lucky. Three people lost their lives in separate drownings.
DeSoto Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle says several emergency shelters have been set up throughout the parish as evacuations are ongoing. He says countless homes in the area have flooded. Arbuckle says the Sabine River is expected to crest at 40 feet, which is the highest it’s been since the 1940s.
National Guard spokesperson Rebekah Malone said the Guard has evacuated over 360 people from their homes in Bossier, Ouachita, and Morehouse parishes. In Bossier City, about 3,500 homes were under a mandatory evacuation as a precaution because the bayou was approaching the top of the levee. Authorities in Bossier parish rescued about 1,000 people using high-water vehicles. In Lincoln Parish, the Ruston Fire Department has had to rescue over a dozen people from their homes or vehicles because of flooding.
Rain totals in Louisiana yesterday range from 11 to 20 inches. Congressman Ralph Abraham says lives and livelihoods are at stake in this storm. Abraham says he has talked with FEMA and asked that the area be declared a federal disaster area so resources and funding can come this way. He says everyone in north Louisiana is pitching in to help.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has advised that all Louisiana residents be aware of dangerous flood waters and to take precautions. DHH spokesperson Bob Johannessen says to avoid flood waters if possible and keep children out of the water.
Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and one of his top lieutenants have been indicted on civil rights violations for their alleged involvement in the beatings of five jail inmates. The indictment claims Ackal directed officers to beat the inmates in the jail’s chapel in 2011. Eight former employees of the sheriff’s office have already pleaded guilty to related federal charges. If convicted, Ackal could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine for each civil rights violation.
The number of flu cases in Louisiana has started to increase recently, particularly cases of the H1N1 flu virus. Department of Health and Hospitals flu expert Dr. Frank Welch says this kind of trend is uncommon for this time of year and it likely due to the slow start of the flu season.
Welch says H1N1 exhibits typical flu symptoms, including the sudden onset of back pain, fever, and itchy eyes. He says people should not take the flu lightly. Welch says about 500 people die each year in Louisiana from the flu.
A majority of Louisiana residents are willing to pay higher taxes to support education and roads, according to a new survey from LSU. Fifty-one percent of respondents want the state to spend more on K through 12 public education, and 50-percent say the same for higher ed. Michael Henderson, with the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, says they asked people about paying taxes to pay for these services to put people in the same position as the legislators.
Forty-six percent of those polled said they are willing to pay higher taxes to support transportation infrastructure. Michael Henderson, with the LSU Public Policy Research Lab says this survey suggests many voters are not upset that legislators approved higher taxes.