Students taking summer classes drove to campus Thursday in t-shirts and shorts, not realizing they would need a pirogue and a bathing suit to make it home.
Flash floods occurred across Baton Rouge Thursday, flooding buildings, homes and streets both on and off campus. According to Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, the city accumulated over five inches of rain early Thursday, with 3.5 inches of rain occurring during rush hour alone.
The University remained open for summer students; however, four streets and four parking lots on campus were flooded with high water. Students were warned of highwater at East Parker Blvd., West Chimes St., West Lakeshore Drive and Alaska St. The South Stadium parking lot, Nicholson Gateway parking lot, Cypress parking lot and West Campus Apartments parking lot flooded as well.
Nursing sophomore Kelsey Shingleton arrived on campus for her 7:30 a.m. class with no trouble, but left the class to see the extent of the flooding.
“Highland Road was completely flooded up to my knees,” she said. “A lot of people were running through the rain. There were three or four cars stalled out on Highland and a policeman was blocking off the road and not letting people cross South Stadium and Highland.”
Shingleton stayed on campus to wait for her second class at 11 a.m., only for it to be cancelled just before. She said she waited on campus for about two hours for the flooding to go down.
“I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t because of the water,” she said. “That was kind of scary because I didn’t know how long the rain was going to last or how long it would take for the water to drain or if my car could get out of the parking lot… If I would have known that the rain would have gotten that bad and the flooding would have gotten that bad I wouldn’t have come at all.”
Mechanical engineering sophomore Rudy Stark tweeted a video Thursday of his purple route bus driving around campus with flood water sloshing back and forth around the bus. Students on the bus held their feet up and yelled as the water moved near them.
“The purple bus driver is fantastic,” Stark tweeted. “She got us to class 10 minutes early on a flooded bus!”
In the greater Baton Rouge area, William Jackson, 37, drowned during the Thursday floods after his car became submerged in nearly nine feet of water on Chippewa St. near the I-110 entrance. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome released a statement Thursday regarding Jackson’s death, sending her thoughts and prayers to his family.
In the statement, Mayor Broome also made an emergency declaration regarding the state of the city.
“As we continue to assess damage throughout East Baton Rouge Parish as a result of yesterday and today’s weather conditions,” she said. “I have initiated the process to seek state and federal disaster support through an emergency declaration. This declaration will activate any and all necessary emergency plans and activities in response to this event.”
According to the National Weather Service, this is not the end of the floods. A flood warning was issued Tuesday until further notice. In the warning, it is forecasted that the Mississippi River will rise close to 44 feet by June 17. At this level, parts of campus near the veterinary medicine building and stadium are likely to flood.