Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2013 10:29 PM
LAKE ARTHUR — Rain gave way to a mixture of sun and clouds Friday as rivers and bayous continued to rise in parts of Jefferson Davis Parish, flooding low-lying roads and forcing some residents to evacuate along the Mermentau River.
Police Jury President Donald Woods declared a state of emergency due to flooding, and more rain is expected.
Fewer than two dozen residents voluntarily evacuated in the Castex Landing area along the Mermentau River just east of Jennings, said Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Robert Broussard.
The Mermentau River was expected to rise to 9 feet by 6 p.m. today before beginning a slow fall on Sunday, the National Weather Service said.
Sporadic flooding was reported in low-lying areas, including part of U.S. 90 just east of Jennings and several rural roads, including those south of Lacassine, but most roads remained open, Broussard said.
In Lake Arthur, water crept closer, threatening homes and businesses throughout the town, including Pleasant Street and Lake Arthur Boulevard. Water was already flooding the town’s park.
“When I got to work (Thursday) morning you could still see the sidewalk in front of the deck at the oak tree, but by the time I left yesterday it was coming up,” town clerk Cindy Mallett said.
She watched Friday as the water inched closer to the city’s main street.
“This reminds me of Hurricane Rita, but this is going to be worse as flooding goes because we were able to control it for Rita,” she said. “This is the level where it crested for Rita, and it still hasn’t crested yet and we have more rain coming.”
Lakefront resident Roberta Palermo was bracing for the worst and hoping for the best.
Rising water was surrounding her home, but had not entered it yet.
“It’s always been close, but never gotten in yet,” she said of past flooding. She and her husband planned to stay in the home. “We know how to swim, and we have an upstairs,” she joked.
Don Gauthier of the Broadmore Gravity Drainage District said the lake level rose 15 inches between 6:30 a.m. Wednesday and 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
The town and the drainage district have managed to keep most of the town dry by pumping off excess water. As many as six pumps were working at times, he said.
However, Gauthier said rising waters and more rain could push the lake levels over the levee, which was built based on a 100-year-flood plan.
The flood concerns followed three days of rain that saturated the area, turning many roads into streams and yards into lakes. More rain is expected through next week.
In Welsh, Town Superintendent Rick Matte said two elderly people had to be evacuated from the west end of town Thursday after a nearby bayou began to overflow.
Many homes along Abell Road, Benoit Street, South Sarah Street, Vanicor Road and an area near Henderson Implement just north of the interstate remained surrounded by high water Friday, but only two homes reported water inside, Matte said. Most of Sportsman’s Park off U.S. 90 was underwater.
Matte was relieved Friday that water in many of those areas appeared to be receding.
Town crews have been working around the clock checking and clearing drainage throughout the town to keep the water flowing, he said.
“We knew we were going to get a lot of water, so two days prior to the rain we had the men out checking drainage,” he said.