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Torrential rain continues

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City, parish working to remedy flooding issues
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Top Left Photo: Ruston Fire Department rescued two occupants and their pets from a home near Ken's Landing in North Lincoln Parish. The water rose above the bottom floor of their home while the couple was asleep on Wednesday night trapping them in the upstairs bedroom. Bottom Left Photo: Fifth District Congressman Ralph Abraham, standing, and Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone discuss water damage on the Grambling State University campus with university President Willie Larkin. Right Photo: Fifth District Congressman Ralph Abraham told local emergency responders on Thursday he has requested federal assistance in the wake of this week’s flooding. Nine parishes in Abraham’s 24-parish district have been affected by the high water.

Though the rain that began pelting Lincoln Parish three days ago may have slacked off, significant danger still exists, local emergency officials said Thursday.

At least half of the roads in the parish remain closed with many still under water. Three Ruston streets are shut down because of washouts. Hazardous travel forced parish public and private schools, along with Louisiana Tech and Grambling State universities, to cancel classes again today.

Weekend forecasts suggest yet more potential problems: high winds and possible hail.

Though the rainfall is expected to diminish during the day Saturday, the National Weather Service update early this morning said a fast-moving upper level system is likely coming through Sunday afternoon, bringing scattered thunderstorms and threats of hail.

But for now, what worries officials most is motorists ignoring barricades, especially those across roads and bridges that may appear passable.

“Even when the water goes down, for all intents and purposes, the roads are still as bad as they were two days ago,” Chad Alexander, public information officer with the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Department, said.

Closed bridges will not re-open until state highway department inspectors check the structures for damage. Officials said they fear more cave-ins and substructure weakening even as the flash flood waters subside.

“This is an evolving thing. We’re going to continue to find more washouts as they go around,” parish Administrator Courtney Hall said.

As of Thursday, as much as 16 inches of rain had fallen across Lincoln Parish since the current low-pressure system set in Tuesday night. Up to four more inches was expected to fall overnight and through early this morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Parker said.

“This is a different event than we’ve ever dealt with,” Kip Franklin, director of Lincoln Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said.

Officials opened the emergency shelter at Ruston’s Trinity United Methodist Church on Thursday morning. National Guardsmen helped ferry nurses from outlying areas to work at Northern Louisiana Medical Center, and volunteers filled sandbags for public use.

Eighteen-wheelers filled a portion of the Lincoln Parish Library parking lot Wednesday night when portions of Interstate 20 both east and west of Lincoln Parish were closed. Highway closures outside Lincoln Parish also left two commercial passenger buses stranded at the Ruston bus station overnight.

Meanwhile, Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency in Lincoln and surrounding parishes. Fifth District Congressman Ralph Abraham has also asked for federal help in the wake of the flooding.

“This is a very significant disaster,” Abraham said during a stop in Ruston on Thursday. “You do have lives and livelihoods that are unfortunately being affected as we speak. It’s not just a normal rain shower that Louisiana gets. This is far, far worse.”

While no lives have been lost in Lincoln Parish, Ruston firefighters did use boats to make four high-water rescues, and along with city police, evacuated 12 people from low-lying neighborhoods Tuesday night. Responders physically carried some of those residents to safety, city fire Chief Chris Womack said.

In Grambling, high water has damaged at least two classroom buildings, the student union and several dormitories, Leon Sanders, GSU vice president for finance administration, said.

“As fast as we pump the water out, the water’s coming back in,” Sanders said.

The creek into which water would normally flow is flooding, thus causing the additional backup, he said.

“Until the water stops, there’s nothing we can do,” Sanders said.

Tech officials report no damage to their campus.

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