Local agencies respond to south Louisiana flood

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Courtesy of the Bossier Sheriff's Office | Dep. Jonathan Colgin drives the Zodiac boat with Capt. Donnie Keith keeping a watchful eye as they search flooded areas in Baton Rouge Sunday.

The state of Louisiana has been devastated once again by historic flood waters.

Heavy rains sent creeks and rivers cresting over their banks. Gov. John Bel Edwards said late Sunday more than 20,000 people had been rescued across south Louisiana and more than 10,000 people are in shelters. The federal government declared it a major disaster, specifically in the parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Helena, East Baton Rouge and Livingston.

The pictures and videos of flooded streets and homes are an all too familiar scene for Bossier Parish residents. It was only five months ago that Bossier saw historic flood waters in the eastern and southern parts of the parish, following a historic flood event along the Red River in 2015.

The newly-formed WATER Rescue Team was deployed to assist with evacuations and rescue mission. Dubbed the Bossier Parish Water and Technical Emergency Rescue (WATER) task force, the team is comprised of deputies with the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office and area fire stations, to include East 80 Fire District #1, South Bossier Fire District #2, Benton Fire District #4, Bossier City Fire Department and Haughton Fire Department.
They are equipped with specialized water rescue gear and has been training for about a month for a mission such as this.  Such equipment includes special life vests to sustain more than one person and special ropes and rigging gear to coordinate rescues in very swift water or dangerous situations.

“This new team will augment our current mission and bring another level of flood rescue operations to handle just about any situation that may arise,” said Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington.  “We’ve seen how treacherous flood waters can be, and we want to be able to help everyone in danger.”

Another team from Bossier is made up of two Bossier Sheriff’s Office deputies, four Benton firefighters, a specialized Zodiac boat and a flat bottom rescue boat.

“We are very excited to work in this joint endeavor with the Bossier Sheriff’s Office and other local firefighters as we help our fellow citizens in south Louisiana,” said Benton Fire Chief J.T. Wallace.  “In addition, we stand ready to respond to local emergencies with local crews and gear should the need arise.”

Firefighters with the South Bossier Fire District #2 and Bienville Fire Districts #4 & 5 Task Force, who left for Baton Rouge Saturday afternoon to aid flood victims, went quickly to work.  They completed an evacuation of flood victims in a Baton Rouge subdivision Saturday evening, and around midnight, they were deployed to a nursing home to rescue patients trapped there by rising flood waters. They were able to rescue 83 patients (4 bed-bound, 43 wheel-chair bound, 36 ambulatory) and 20 staff members.  They pulled the last victim out at 6 a.m. Sunday, and by that time, the water had risen to three and a half feet on the inside.  All patients were safely transported.

These south Bossier firefighters are no stranger to flood rescue efforts, as they worked alongside Bossier Sheriff’s Office deputies, Louisiana National Guardsmen and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officers in aiding in the rescue and evacuation of hundreds of stranded residents during the spring flood earlier this year in south Bossier Parish.

Fire Chief Kenny Tyson says the crew was requested by the Louisiana State Fire Marshal to deploy to the Emergency Operation Center in Baton Rouge for their assignments.

These Bossier teams continue to rescue people who have been trapped by the flooding and are providing assistance where they are needed.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the first responders in south Louisiana and the residents who are going through this devastating ordeal,” said Sheriff Whittington.

A team of seven Bossier Sheriff’s Office deputies departed for south Louisiana Monday afternoon. They will be replacing the team of eight deputies who have been working tirelessly conducting flood rescues and evacuations since arriving there Friday and through the weekend.

As of Monday morning, Bossier deputies have rescued or evacuated around 400 to 500 people affected in the flooded areas on 10 separate missions.