ELM GROVE, LA. >> The death toll climbed to three and a thousand people were forced to leave their homes Thursday as a second round of unusually heavy rain hit an already inundated northern Louisiana. The southern part of the state was bracing for heavy rain later in the day.
State officials said a 6-year-old girl was among those killed during two days of severe weather that has left roads covered in water and sent people fleeing their homes.
Sixteen Louisiana parishes have declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard was sent in to help.
Guard spokesman Rebekah Malone said the Guard has evacuated 361 people from homes in Bossier, Ouachita and Morehouse parishes since Wednesday morning, using trucks that can travel though water 20 to 30 inches deep.
Guardsman have also evacuated 70 dogs, 16 chickens and even a guinea pig.
In Bossier City — across the Red River from Shreveport — some 3,500 homes were under a mandatory evacuation as a precaution because a bayou was approaching the top of its levee. National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Hansford said Thursday morning that the bayou may top the levee or be breached. One weather spotter just north of Monroe reported more than 18 inches of rain since Tuesday night, he said..
Dozens of people were at a Red Cross shelter at the Bossier Civic Center in northwest Louisiana.
"About 50 people are in the shelter now, and more are on the way from the area south of Bossier City, where several subdivisions were cut off by high water," shelter manager Colleen Morgan said.
Lt. Bill Davis of the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office said the road leading to an area just south of Bossier City is blocked by water in both directions. Authorities were using high-water vehicles to bring out about 1,000 people.
Rescuers were working out of a staging area along Highway 71 in Bossier Parish on Thursday. Using boats and trucks high enough to drive through the water, they went through the community evacuating people from their homes.
Many residents brought with them dogs and cats as they fled. Two men could be seen in knee-deep water trying to secure horses in the muddy brown waters.
State police report several sections of Interstate 20 were closed from Bossier City to near Gibsland in north central Louisiana.
Rain also pummeled parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas.
In southern Arkansas, heavy rainfall has prompted the closure of some schools and roads, and forecasters say the deluge will continue there for the rest of the week. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service say officials have reported water rescues and evacuations near Dermott, Arkansas, as water rises in low-lying areas.
More than 14 inches of rain had fallen as of Thursday morning in Chicot and Ashley counties in the southeast corner of Arkansas. Meteorologist Ed Tarver says the service issued an extreme flood threat for the counties because up to 5 more inches could be coming Thursday.
Officials say schools are shutting down early and roads are closed in parts of West Tennessee due to flooding caused by heavy rain.
One weather-related drowning was reported in both Oklahoma and Texas earlier this week. In Louisiana, officials late Wednesday said a 63-year-old man died when a car was swept off a flooded road.
Mike Steele, a spokesman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said a 22-year-old man and a 6-year-old girl in Ouachita Parish have also been confirmed dead.
Among the scores of rescues were Shawn Powell, his wife, and two children, ages 7 and 10, their dog and guinea pig. They left their home in the Pecan Grove subdivision early Thursday morning in the back of a National Guard truck.
Powell said he watched a Bossier Parish sheriff's deputy remove his neighbors across the street from their home in a boat Wednesday afternoon.
"At 2 a.m. (Thursday) as the water approached my house, I knew it was time to go," Powell said.
"As we were traveling out of the neighborhood, I didn't realize how bad it was," Powell said. "The water was up to roofs of homes, and you could see the tops of cars."
Powell, his family and the pets were taken to the Red Cross shelter at the civic center.
"We brought with us a change of clothes and that's all," Powell said.
Fuller reported from New Orleans. Associated Press reporter Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge contributed to this report.