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LOOKING BACK: Historic rainfall floods homes, strands drivers

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 11:41 AM CDT|Updated: May. 20, 2022 at 1:46 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - One year ago today, 12.49 inches of rain fell in Lake Charles, flooding the city and most of Southwest Louisiana.

The sudden deluge made the streets impassable, leaving drivers scrambling to find a place to hole up until the waters receded.

And many homes that just months before had been flooded by hurricanes Laura and Delta once again had water coming inside. Residents had just moved back into some of those homes, only to be displaced again.

The 12.49 inches of rain was the third-highest on record - 15.79 inches of rain were recorded on June 19, 1947, and 15.67 inches of rain were recorded on May 16, 1980.

The 12.49 inches of rain that fell in Lake Charles on May 17, 2021, was the third-highest on...
The 12.49 inches of rain that fell in Lake Charles on May 17, 2021, was the third-highest on record - 15.79 inches of rain were recorded on June 19, 1947, and 15.67 inches of rain were recorded on May 16, 1980.(KPLC)

OHSEP Director Dick Gremillion said that his role during the May 17 flood included setting up shelters for those stranded:

“The Sheriff’s Office, National Guard picked them up in their boats and high water vehicles.” Gremillion said. “There’s really not much you can do, when it rains 17-inches we’re gonna have a flood.”

He said that a key takeaway from this flood is to have knowledge of Southwest Louisiana weather systems.

“If you live in Southwest Louisiana you really need to understand how the weather works,” Gremillion said. “Pay attention to those forecasts and start understanding ‘how does that forecast relate to where I live?’.”

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said that when reflecting on the May 17 flood, the 2020 hurricanes must be included as well.

“It’s looking back on the last year and a half, two years, this community has been through a lot,” Hunter said. “So May 17 was a tough day for this community, Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta, winter freeze, all tough days for this community, but we made it through it.”

He said just waiting on federal dollars was not a realistic thing to do when dealing with flood damage.

“We went out in the summer of last year and gained authority to borrow twenty million dollars to actually put towards drainage upgrades throughout the city of Lake Charles,” Hunter said. “We have focused very heavily on underground inspection and cleaning and we have seen significant results.”

When asked what still needs to be done, Hunter said that there is still damage to be cleaned up from the 2020 hurricanes and 2021 flood.

“When you look at the magnitude of what hit us, we are going to be aggressive, we are going to be proactive and we’ve got to continue those efforts,” Hunter said.

Copyright 2022 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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