ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — A woman who was found with only her head above water more than 12 hours after apparently having some type of mishap on a personal watercraft in the Tchefuncte River and then riding out intense storms is in critical condition, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Though the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries did not identify the woman, previous reports said she was 26-year-old Laura Thomas of Covington.
The LDWF said the woman was reported missing around 9 p.m. Friday and that a search in the river had to be called off around 2 a.m. Saturday due to intense storms.
The search resumed Saturday morning after the storms passed and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says a Good Samaritan found the personal watercraft around 10:30 a.m. and the woman was found a short time later with only her head above the water. She was wearing a life jacket.
She was taken to Lakeview Regional Medical Center and was listed in critical condition.
St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith asked the public to pray for Thomas and her family and he thanked those who came forward with information during the search.
Fast-moving storms passed over the Northshore Friday night into Saturday morning, bringing several inches of rain and wind gusts as fast as 57 mph, which may have made the search more dangerous.
The Tchefuncte River near Covington was around 15 feet deep at 9 a.m. Friday. Saturday at 9 a.m., it was nearly 20 feet deep, the threshold for the minor flood stage there, according to weather reports from Your Local Weather Expert Payton Malone on Saturday morning.
The WWLTV Meteorologist, Malone, said the river is expected to rise to 21 feet by Sunday at 9 a.m., then begin dropping.
A social media post from the STPSO said the Coast Guard and the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries began helping with the search after midnight.
First reports from the National Weather Service said strong winds brought down trees and powerlines in parts of Mandeville and Slidell.