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Louisiana storm death toll climbs to 5; hundreds dealing with flood damage

The flooding, which began with heavy rain early this week, hit some areas that were struck by two hurricanes last year.
Parents use boats to pick up students from schools after nearly a foot of rain fell in Lake Charles, La., on May 17, 2021.
Parents use boats to pick up students from schools after nearly a foot of rain fell in Lake Charles, La., on May 17.Rick Hickman / American Press via AP

The number of deaths related to a deluge of rain that hit parts of Louisiana this week has risen to five, health officials said Thursday, and more rain is forecast for a region that has already seen flash flooding.

The Vermilion Parish coroner ruled that the death of a 46-year-old man whose vehicle crashed into floodwaters was storm-related, the state Health Department said.

Of the five deaths, four were related to people driving into high water, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

"Please make sure that you don't do that," Edwards said. "Turn around. Don't drown."

Within 12 hours Monday, more than a foot of rain fell in parts of Lake Charles, which was badly affected by two hurricanes in six weeks last year.

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Hundreds of homes, mostly in Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, have suffered flood damage, Edwards said.

There were around 400 families with flood damage in Lake Charles and around 300 in Baton Rouge, "but this number is changing every hour," he said.

More rain is forecast. Two to 3 more inches could fall in the Lake Charles area through Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

But some areas could get more than that — as much as 6 to 10 inches, Donald Jones, meteorologist for the weather service's Lake Charles office, said in a video briefing.

"The ground is very much saturated. Pretty much all the area waterways are full," he said. "And so it's not going to take a whole lot water, a whole lot of rainfall for flash flooding to begin once again."

Of the five deaths classified as storm-related, four involved vehicles that were either submerged or crashed into floodwaters, authorities said. In East Baton Rouge Parish, a 76-year-old man who depended on oxygen equipment died after a power outage caused by the storm, the state Health Department said.