ABOVE PHOTO: People walk through a flooded street in Greenville, Miss. on Thursday, March 10, 2016. (Bill Johnson/The Delta Democrat-Times via AP)
By Cain Burdeau
NEW ORLEANS — Widespread flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi has damaged thousands of homes and the risk of more flooding played out on Sunday as rain-filled rivers rose over their banks.
At least four deaths have been reported in Louisiana, including that of an elderly man, authorities said. Two fishermen have been missing for days in Mississippi.
In northwest Tennessee, more than a dozen homes were evacuated late Saturday after heavy rains breached a levee, according to emergency officials.
Flood warnings were in effect across the region as many rivers remained dangerously high.
Also of concern was another line of thunderstorms that was expected to hit parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Louisiana and northern Mississippi Sunday night. Hail and tornadoes were possible, forecasters said.
But Davyon Hill, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport, said this storm system was not expected to drop the kind of record-setting rains that the region has seen recently.
“At this point, any rain will aggravate the flooding situation,” he said. “But these (storms) are kind of fast moving and isolated.”
In Louisiana, emergency officials said more than 4,958 homes were damaged. That number is expected to rise as more reports come in from areas still battling floodwaters. Mississippi reported that 185 homes were damaged by floodwaters and about 650 homes sustained minor damage.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama signed an order declaring the flooding in Louisiana a major disaster. The president’s declaration triggers federal aid for flood victims.
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said he was worried that many flood victims had not purchased flood insurance.
“A lot of these people I spoke to did not have flood insurance because they had never flooded before,” Nungesser said in a telephone interview.
He warned that residents may not get federal disaster aid if they didn’t have insurance. “It’s not going to be the open check book,” he added.
Downpours – part of a system affecting Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama – have submerged roads and cars, washed out bridges and forced residents to flee homes.
Authorities in Louisiana’s Natchitoches Parish said Harold Worsham, 78, drowned while trying to flee floodwaters on Saline Bayou. The sheriff’s office said Worsham was in a boat that capsized as he and two others were moving items from a home onto an aluminum boat.
On Sunday, Mississippi officials said they were still looking for two missing fishermen, but had no reports of injuries or deaths there.
Flooding on rain-swollen rivers remained a major concern.
In Tennessee, Emergency Management Agency director Rickey Graves in Gibson County told The Jackson Sun that about 10 homes in the community of Kenton and a half dozen homes in Trenton were evacuated Saturday night after a levee was breached.
It’s the most widespread non-hurricane flooding the Louisiana National Guard has ever dealt with, said Col. Pete Schneider, a guard spokesman.
The National Guard said it had about 1,400 soldiers and air crews at work in flooded areas throughout Louisiana, deploying in high-water vehicles, boats and three helicopters. By Sunday morning, National Guard crews had evacuated more than 3,295 people and 316 pets as part of its round-the-clock operations.