COVINGTON, La. (AP) — Roads were submerged, bridges washed out, and cars abandoned in rivers and streams as Louisiana struggled Friday from days of severe weather that forced residents across the state to flee their homes.
The rain and flooding is part of a weather system that has affected Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama. At least three people have died in Louisiana alone.
The system that dumped as much as 20 inches of rain in some areas was slowly moving out of the region, but the effects could still be felt as rivers in some areas were waiting to crest, more rain was expected Saturday and water in other areas was still draining.
In neighboring Mississippi, the worst appeared yet to come as officials said as many as 1,000 residents could see their homes flooded by the rapidly rising Leaf River in Hattiesburg, Petal and surrounding areas.
In southwest Louisiana, a band of rain dumped 10 to 15 inches of rain across some areas late Thursday and into Friday, sparking vicious flash flooding.
Allen DeWeese was living in the Land-o-Pines campground in Covington with his 10-year-old son when the rushing waters of the Tchefuncte River destroyed his trailer.
"They're calling it Land-o-Lakes right at the moment," he joked, while smoking a cigarette at a shelter set up in Covington. His trailer? "It's destroyed. It's underwater."
He planned to spend the night at the shelter. After that, he wasn't sure. "I'll take it day-to-day," he said.
Parish officials there said three local rivers were reaching historic levels and would continue to rise.
In nearby Tangipahoa Parish, Sheriff Daniel Edwards said close to 50 roads were closed because of high water and an estimated 300 to 400 people had to evacuate.
Further to the east in Washington Parish, swollen rivers and creeks led to widespread flooding, prompting rescues from scores of homes. The Coast Guard even had use a helicopter to pluck someone trapped on a roof.
In northern Louisiana, the deluge has dumped 15-20 inches this week. In Ouachita Parish, well over 1,000 people have been evacuated, said Glenn Springfield, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.
He said they started doing water rescues early Wednesday morning and have been "doing those pretty much around the clock nonstop since then."
People were sandbagging their homes and water had washed out roads and bridges, he said.
In Bossier Parish, another area in northwest Louisiana clobbered by the rain, at least 1,000 people were evacuated by first responders, said Bill Davis, a spokesman for the sheriff's department. He said officials expect waters to overtop the Red Chute Levee but it's too soon to say by how much or what damage it could cause.
Brenda Maddox was forced to flee her home of 26 years. The couple left Thursday with four days of clothes packed. On Friday they came back to retrieve their car from the flooded streets and were going to an RV park to wait out the rain.
"We'd heard we'd get a lot of rain, but it all came so sudden," she said. "We hate to leave, but we thought we'd get out while we can."
At the Pecan Valley Estates mobile home park, Sam Cassidy and his wife were the last holdouts Friday — worried looters might come if they left.
Thursday morning, with waters creeping up his front steps, he stood in waist-deep water watching his neighbors evacuate. An alligator swam by. By night it looked like a "horror movie."
"It was pitch black, the houses were empty. It's been an adventure," he said.
The severe weather system that has dumped rain across the state has been feeding off of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, said Frank Revitte, from the National Weather Service in Slidell.
It was starting to move slowly to the northeast, he said, giving the state a chance to dry out, but additional showers are expected Saturday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards crisscrossed the state Friday checking on parishes. He said there had been record flooding in some areas and called it a "major event."
Mike Steele, a spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Friday it was too early to provide estimates on damage as the number of flooded properties and evacuees was "changing by the minute."
Northeast Louisiana could see 2 more inches of rain by Sunday, he said.
Other states in the region have also been affected:
— In Mississippi, Emergency Management Agency Director Lee Smithson said more than 300 homes statewide have been flooded since Wednesday. No one has been killed, but the search is still on for two fishermen missing on the Mississippi River. State or federal highways were fully or partially closed in 14 of Mississippi's 82 counties because of flooding or flood damage.
In Forrest County, where as many as 1,000 residents could see their homes flooded by the Leaf River, officials urged people to evacuate and take precautions in advance of the river's predicted Sunday morning crest.
— The National Weather Service predicted Friday that nearly 6 inches of rain could fall by early Sunday around Mobile, Alabama.
— In Memphis, Tennessee, rescuers evacuated at least six people from a handful of homes.
— One weather-related drowning was reported in both Oklahoma and Texas earlier this week.
Benchaabane reported from Bossier City. Associated Press writers Bill Fuller, Rebecca Santana and Cain Burdeau in New Orleans, Jeff Martin in Atlanta and Jeff Amy in Jackson contributed to this report.