Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards called the widespread flooding spawned by the region’s pounding rain across the southern part of the state a “truly historic event” that won’t be over anytime soon.
The rain battered the parishes around Baton Rouge and is expected to move west, he said at a news conference Saturday.
There are record levels of flooding and cresting along rivers and creeks that will affect homes, roads and driveways, he said.
“This is a major disaster,” the governor said. “This is an ongoing event and we are still in the response mode.”
At least three people have died so far as a result of the flooding sweeping through south Louisiana, officials said.
The body of a 30-year-old woman was recovered Saturday afternoon in St. Helena Parish, Michael Martin, the chief of operations for St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office, said The woman was travelling with her husband and mother when their vehicle was swept away by the flood. Her mother and husband were rescued.
Officials have not released the name of the woman.
She is the second known flood victim in St. Helena Parish. Samuel Muse, 54, of Greensburg died when his vehicle was submerged Friday after a portion of Highway 10 collapsed at Darlings Creek, CNN-affiliate WAFB reported.
“At this time, troopers believe that Muse attempted to drive through high water and his vehicle was swept off the road,” the Louisiana State Police said.
The state’s first flood-related fatality happened in East Baton Rouge Parish on Friday. A 68-year-old man drowned when he slipped and fell in flood water.
There was almost a fourth victim, but three men in a boat stumbled on the woman’s nearly submerged convertible just in time, and struggled to pull her out as the car filled with water.
“Oh my God, I’m drowning, I’m drowning,” the woman said in a faint voice, as captured in a video given to CNN.
“We’re coming, we’re coming,” one of the men said. They tried to smash the passenger side window.
“Please help me,” the woman said.
One man asked for a knife to cut the soft top and hopped on the trunk of the car, which was still sticking in the air with the rest of the car nose-dived into water, quickly sinking.
As the underwater car started to float away under his weight, the man jumped into the water, frantically ripping at the soft top to no avail; then he reached in the car’s driver-side window, trying to reach the victim.
Just when it looked like she was lost, the woman stuck her arms out of the water toward him. He got a good hold and pulled her to safety.
She popped up through the water and announced they needed to rescue one more victim.
“Get my dog, get my dog,’’ she said, her frantic voice, choked with water. “Get my dog, now. I’ll go down.”
“I can’t get the dog,” he said, as he felt inside the submerged convertible.
He ducked under the water to reach into the car.
“Maybe she’s gone,” said one of the men in the boat.
“No — she better not be,” the woman said, her voice strained.
The rescuer re-emerged and exhorted: “I got your dog.”
He held up the small, white, terrier-looking creature, turned to the victim and in a calmer, more exhausted but happy voice said: “Swim for the boat.”