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Storm Harvey flooding western Louisiana on anniversary of Katrina

Twelve years to the day after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, another deadly storm has seen hundreds of people rescued from floodwaters in south-western Louisiana.

Tropical Storm Harvey also prompted New Orleans to shut down its schools and other key institutions as a precaution.

Harvey flooded neighbourhoods overnight with chest-deep water in the Lake Charles area, near the Texas border.

In New Orleans, mayor Mitch Landrieu urged residents to stay at home on Tuesday due to the threat of potential flooding. Many appeared to be heeding his call.

Meanwhile, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards said Louisiana is offering to shelter storm victims from Texas. He said at a news conference in Baton Rouge that he expects Texas officials to decide within 48 hours whether to accept the offer.

Some New Orleans neighbourhoods flooded earlier this month during a deluge that exposed problems with the city's pump and drainage system. On Tuesday, heavy rains were starting to flood some New Orleans streets.

Traffic on the bridge from New Orleans' west bank to the main part of the city was lighter than usual during the morning's rush hour.

The city's public schools were closed, along with six universities and a medical school. A ceremony and march in New Orleans to commemorate the deadly 2005 storm was postponed until Sunday.

For many others, it was largely business as usual.

"I can't afford not to open," said Jerry Roppolo, 65, owner of a popular coffee house where water often creeps over the pavement and up to the threshold during heavy rains.

The shop in the Carrollton neighbourhood is usually bustling but was slow on Tuesday. Mr Roppolo attributed that to the school closures.

"A lot of the parents come in on the way to school, on the way from school," he said.

About 500 people were evacuated in south-west Louisiana's most populous parish overnight, as a heavy band of rain pushed waterways out of their banks, said Calcasieu Parish spokesman Tom Hoefer.

He said as many as 5,000 parish residents are affected by the flooding, but not all of those people have flooded homes. Some are just cut off by flooded roads.

A lull in the heavy rains allowed water to recede on Tuesday morning, enabling some who fled their homes to return, survey damage and remove possessions.

"I wanted to get my mother's Bible out of the house and there were some things we needed - our medicine, we're both on medications," said David Wells, 65. "I got a feeling it's going to get worse before it gets any better."

The high water in Calcasieu Parish surprised residents of some neighbourhoods not known for flooding. The Kayouche Coulee spilled over when heavy rain hit the area after sunset, and people began calling for rescue.

"I've seen some floods, I've seen water come up, but nothing like this," said Lake Charles fire department division chief Lennie LaFleur.

Lt Mark Thrower, of the Iowa fire department in Calcasieu Parish, said emergency workers used a high-water vehicle and boat to evacuate approximately 25 people from waist-deep water on Monday night. He said at least 45 homes in Iowa were flooded.

National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Erickson said officials expect Harvey will make another landfall in Cameron Parish around midday on Wednesday, after hitting Texas and meandering back into the Gulf of Mexico.

Harvey is projected to bring gusts up to 45mph in coastal areas and gusts of up to 35mph in Lake Charles.

Mr Erickson warned that some coastal rivers will not be able to drain rain effectively because Harvey's winds are pushing storm surge into coastal waters, aggravating flooding of areas that have already received more than 20 inches of rain.


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