A state of emergency has been declared for Webster Parish as emergency personnel continue to monitor the weather and battle rising waters throughout Webster Parish.
With roads washing away, floodwaters continue to rise, forcing road closures, including Interstate 20 from Red Chute Bayou in Bossier Parish all the way to the Bienville Parish line.
Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton says deputies have been working nonstop trying to get people to safety.
“Water has washed over so many roads, some of them completely collapsed,” he said. “We’ve never run into a situation quite like this one before.”
As of Thursday morning, Sexton says Highway 80 westbound has been opened from Dixie Inn to Bossier in an effort to get traffic moving.
“I’ve got 150 18-wheelers in Dixie Inn right now that can’t go anywhere, so we’re opening Highway 80 just to get them moving,” he said, adding he was also trying to get a wrecker to the north end of the parish for an 18-wheeler stranded by high water on Highway 160.
Director of Webster Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness John Stanley says Webster Parish schools and all government offices will remain closed Thursday.
Shelters have been opened at First Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church in Minden, he said. If these fill to capacity, then Stanley says they will begin working with other churches to offer an additional place for displaced flood victims.
“FBC and FUMC were very gracious to open their doors for us, and we are very appreciative of them doing that for us,” Stanley said.
The United Christian Assistance Program and the Joe LeBlanc Food Pantry are offering emergency food provisions for displaced flood victims. While those offices will be closed Thursday, volunteers will be on hand to help those in need. JLFP can be reached 465-6726, and if anyone needs assistance from UCAP, send a private message through Facebook.
Lake Bistineau is expected to crest at a record 148 feet, but it could go higher depending on the rainfall amount.
Weldon Thomas, a Lake Bistineau resident and founder of Lake Bistineau News Group, says it’s been “bad” all day. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries agents have had boats on the water as well, rescuing residents from flooded homes.
“It’s the worst since I’ve lived here,” he said. “I couldn’t get out if I wanted to. Our road is under and there is more to come.”
Minden Fire Chief Kip Mourad says the fire department spent the better part of Tuesday night through Wednesday rescuing people from their homes and vehicles.
“We’ve been out the whole night,” he said Wednesday. “Our first call came in around six Tuesday where lightning hit a house. We’ve gotten at least 20 people out of houses that were flooding.”
They haven’t had to evacuate any neighborhoods in their entirety, he said, but have rescued several residents on Woods Street, the Babbs Park area and other areas throughout the city, he said. He says they’ve had multiple rescue calls.
“I’ve never seen water get as high as it has in the last 12 hours,” he said.
The ball fields at the Minden Recreation Complex were under water as well and Mayor Tommy Davis says the city shut off electricity to the entire complex.
“To cut off the electricity boxes and transformers down on the ball fields, we had to cut it all off,” he said.
Sexton is strongly urging people to stay home Thursday.
“If you don’t have to get out, stay home,” he said. “If you get out and get stuck, it’s just compounding the problem.”
As of press time, no deaths or serious injuries in Webster have been reported so far, officials said.
Officials will keep monitoring the situation as it progresses, and Sexton urges everyone to stay tuned to local media for the latest road closures.