Heavy rains and historic flooding of swollen rivers and creeks closed hundreds of roads in southern Louisiana over the past week—including sections of interstate highways—leading to on-road rescues and many drivers abandoning their vehicles.
Several days after the floods began, a reported 30,000 were evacuated by rescue from homes and roads, thousands were in shelters or seeking housing, and 13 were reported dead.
A day after heavy rains struck on Aug. 11, Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a statewide disaster. President Obama issued a disaster declaration Aug. 14 that would pave the way for federal funding for the affected areas.
By Aug. 15, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LaDOTD) said more than 280 state roads were closed due to higher water, including parts of Interstates 12 and 10, plus U.S. highways.
On Aug. 18, the U.S. Department of Transportation made $2 million available from a federal emergency fund to help Louisiana repair roads and bridges, stabilize structures to prevent further damage, and set up detours until permanent repairs are completed.
LaDOTD had to close so many roads in southern Louisiana that it was running out of warning sides and barricades to keep vehicles away from swamped lanes. It activated crews in its northwest district to assemble more road barricades and signs for closures or high water, to send to Lafayette in the flood zone.
Although by week's end the LaDOTD had reopened closed sections of interstate highways, it had no time frame for when all roads would reopen.