Enforcement agents from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries rescued 110 people Monday night from flooded homes after heavy, localized, rain hit the Lake Charles area that afternoon, causing severe flooding.
Seven of those rescued were physically disabled. Men, women and children, along with 15 dogs and cats, were transported to safety by LDWF agents.
Lt. Beau Robertson, the team leader during the search and rescue operations, said “There were a lot of folks waist-deep in water, and wanting to get out of their homes. That’s what we were there doing; that was our mission.”
The trouble started at about noon. “We were doing our normal administrative duties at the Region 5 office,” Robertson said, “and we started getting flash-flood warnings.”
The situation worsened fast.
“I’ve worked for this outfit for a while,” Robertson said, “and this (event) unfolded quickly.”
By 2 o’clock, search and rescue teams were already active in the Lake Charles area.
“We were deploying to some areas that required vessels to reach because the 911 system was beginning to become inundated with calls.”
The LDWF is the lead search-and- rescue agency in the state. Monday’s operations took place between 2 and 11 p.m. and required 11 agents and boats.
“We were operating airboats and shallow-drive vessels, mainly gator tails,” Robertson said. “We were taking (people) to what we call ‘lily pads,’” — areas of high ground accessible by high-water vehicles — “The high-water vehicles can pick them up and take them to a shelter, where they can receive medical attention if they need it, a dry set of clothes, or any of the other things the parish has set up through their EOC to process people after we get them out of the flood waters.”
Robertson said that some of the more challenging circumstances that his agents faced involved handicapped individuals.
“It’s very hard to move people around and get them into boats whenever you’re operating in those conditions,” he said.
The danger of flooding in the Lake Charles area won’t abate until later this week.
“We have another system that’s going to move through southwest Louisiana that has the potential to dump a bunch more rain in our area,” Robertson said. “Unfortunately, this is something that we’ve gotten extremely efficient at doing due to all of the hurricanes and floods that we’ve had during my career here in Louisiana.
“As far as the team is concerned, these guys operate at a very high level; they’re very efficient at what they do; it’s something that they train to do, and it’s something that they’re good at.”