Federal officials said Sunday that a major disaster had hit Louisiana after heavy rains caused widespread flooding.

Story highlights

President Obama declares a "major disaster" in Louisiana

Nearly 5,000 homes were damaged by flooding, state officials say

Officials warn the situation could get worse in some areas, with more rain forecast

CNN  — 

First, heavy rains pelted northern Louisiana. Then storms headed south, drenching coastal areas.

The result: widespread floods that damaged thousands of homes and sent officials scrambling to survey the damage left behind.

On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that a “major disaster” had hit Louisiana. The state emergency management office described the flooding, which began last week, as a “historic flood event.”

As Gov. John Bel Edwards met Sunday with officials and residents in Merryville, Louisiana, where river levels were at a record high, the town’s mayor warned that more rain is forecast for later in the week.

“We’re not out of a crisis situation right now. …. I’m hoping that it doesn’t get a lot worse, but I’m not making any promises,” Mayor David Eaves said, according to CNN affiliate KPLC.

The state’s emergency management office echoed that message.

“We urge everyone to continue to use caution in areas where floodwaters remain. This crisis is not over,” officials said in a statement Sunday. “The National Weather Service indicates thunderstorms and a potential of severe weather are forecast this evening in Northwest Louisiana, which could cause even more problems. Other problems with rivers and bayous are causing new problems to develop.”

Across Louisiana, parishes reported that nearly 5,000 homes had been damaged by flooding so far, the emergency office said. And they’re not done with taking stock yet.

In Merryville, in southwestern Louisiana near the state’s border with Texas, the mayor compared the damage to what the town faced after Hurricane Rita in 2005. So far, the recent rains aren’t quite as bad, he said, but it comes close.

“We’re looking at a monthlong operation of getting damage assessment done. … We’ve got 200 homes and 200 trailers that are underwater,” he said.

In Bossier Parish, the sheriff’s office posted video on its Facebook page that showed a slow-moving truck rumbling through waist-high water on a highway where drivers normally travel at 55 mph.

The President’s disaster declaration Sunday makes federal funding available to people in seven parishes affected by severe storms and flooding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas also saw flooding as the slow-moving storm system plodded across the South last week.

At least four people have been killed in the storms, state officials said.

CNN’s Tony Marco contributed to this report.