NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As floodwaters began receding Monday in northwest Louisiana, emergency officials along Louisiana's southeastern border with Mississippi were watching the rise of the Pearl River amid widespread flooding that has damaged thousands of homes.
The water has started to ebb from flooded subdivisions in south Bossier City on the Red River in northern Louisiana.
National Weather Service forecaster C.S. Ross in Shreveport says it will take at least a week before homeowners can get back to their homes and assess the damage. A 6-mile section of U.S. Highway 71 from Bossier Parish into Red River Parish was covered by water.
Ross said Red Chute Bayou on the east side of Bossier City did not top the levee as feared. He said there was some seepage, but not enough to reach 3,500 homes.
Meanwhile, at the southern end of the Louisiana-Mississippi line, the weather service predicts the Pearl River could reach 21 feet by afternoon — the height of a 1983 flood. This could mean 100 to 200 homes could take on water around Pearlington, Mississippi.
At least four deaths have been reported in Louisiana amid the flooding that began last week, and the National Guard has rescued nearly 3,300 people. Two fishermen have been missing for days in Mississippi.
Flooding was expected to extend to Mississippi Highway 604, Hancock County Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Adam said.
In southeastern Louisiana, St. Tammany Parish officials said the town of Pearl River already was seeing flooding in one neighborhood.
Farther to the south, officials were warning residents in eastern Slidell to be vigilant about rising water.
Tangipahoa Parish officials were warning those in the southern part of the parish about a rise of the Tangipahoa River.
Flood warnings were in effect across the region as many rivers remained dangerously high. Also of concern was another line of thunderstorms that hit parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Louisiana and northern Mississippi on Sunday night, bringing more rain and reports of tornadoes in Arkansas. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
"At this point, any rain will aggravate the flooding situation," Davyon Hill, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport, said.
Emergency officials said more than 4,958 homes in Louisiana 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.
In western Louisiana, Natchitoches Parish authorities 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. At least three others have died in the state.
On Sunday, Mississippi officials said they were still looking for two missing fishermen but had no reports of injuries or deaths there.
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. National Guard crews had evacuated more than 3,295 people and 316 pets as part of its round-the-clock operations by Sunday morning.
Sunday night, officials said reports of a breached levee prompted evacuations in a rural northeastern Louisiana community, but residents were allowed to return to their homes after flooding was less severe than expected.