HAMMOND, LA. -- More than 200 people had to been rescued from homes and flooded areas of Tangipahoa Parish starting around 2 a.m. as an onslaught of close to 10 inches of rain deluged the area.
"People need to shelter in place, stay at home, don't get out; it's very much too dangerous to be running around and looking for anything. So unless you absolutely have to get out it is best to stay home," Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller cautioned early Friday morning.
Residents in the Hammond area were rescued from their homes where rising water crept into the area as the rain continued to fall in the early morning hours. Since the flooding began so early, some residents were unaware that water had even gotten into their homes.
Those who lived in flooded homes sought shelter at places such as Natalbany Elementary School, but due to the overwhelming number of people who needed help, the shelter was moved to the larger Eagle Heights Church in Hammond. Young and old, more than 200 people were brought to the church by Friday afternoon.
The flooding caught many off guard and by surprise.
"They (first responders) came and woke us up around 3 o'clock this morning and said we had to go," said one woman who lives in the area. "We didn't even know. We were sleeping. We didn't know the water was coming up like that."
The flooding and rescues were concentrated northwest of Hammond.
Miller said a multi-agency effort began around 2 a.m. near the intersection of Rufus Bankston Road and Quick Boulevard. The rescue effort included State Police and Wildlife and Fisheries using boats and high water vehicles.
Some residents said they only had a few minutes to grab what belongings they could before they were evacuated.
Another woman described the situation as rescue workers were helping her get out of her home and to dry land. "The water came up all the way to my waist," she said. "It came to my baby's chest. I couldn't pick her up because I had a bag that I was trying to tote with clothes in it."
Sanderford said the roads became impassable in part of the parish "making it even dangerous for larger vehicles."
Miller said several shelters were opening to help residents, but more than 50 roads remain closed in the parish.