Gulfport, Miss., Residents Wait Out Isaac At Home

Hurricane Isaac is causing problems beyond Louisiana — the large storm is also lashing Mississippi. But only about 2,000 residents of Gulfport have evacuated — most are at home waiting for it to pass.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's go now to Gulfport, Mississippi. That's where we find NPR's Debbie Elliot. And Debbie, you - as I understand it - are just east of the eye of Hurricane Isaac right now. What are the conditions like there?

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: You know, it's tropical storm conditions, basically. We've had some very strong gusts of - winds, you know, 40 to 60 mile an hour, I would say, the trees, you know, leaning in the breeze; power lines being blown down in a few places - not near the problem that they're having over in Louisiana, with power outages, however - driving rain. And the big concern at the moment: As those outer bands of the storm lash the Mississippi coast, they're churning up some tornados. So there are a lot of tornado warnings in the area.

GREENE: As if people didn't have enough to deal with, I guess. One of the questions - I know - also, is tide and when high tide might be coming; and if that was going to be a real flash point. Are you getting close to high tide...

ELLIOTT: Yeah.

GREENE: ...and are people worried about that?

ELLIOTT: High tide is under way now, and it moves from the east to the west. So as we get closer and closer to Louisiana, the high tide is cresting. And that means that as high tide is coming in, the storm is also pushing up all that water from the Gulf and into the Mississippi Sound, and it's starting to cover roadways. There are reports of road closures - a lot of roads underwater. Some peoples' homes flooded - who live close to the coast, or who live in low-lying areas. So that is a big issue. Officials here are warning people: If you see water over the road, don't drive through it - not only because it's dangerous, but you know, if you drive through water, it kind of creates a wake, like it would if you were driving a boat; and then those waves will go up and flood peoples' homes.

So right now, there is a curfew; they're trying to keep people out of the way. And they really haven't had a chance, because of the conditions, to assess just what the extent of the damage has been so far. Plus, the storm is just still here; it's not really moving very quickly.

GREENE: Well, if they're advising people not to get on the roads - I mean because, as you put it, it could cause even more problems; there are power lines down - I mean, are there a lot of people in places like Biloxi and Gulfport who are still kind of hunkered down in their homes, just hoping for the best?

ELLIOTT: Yes, yes; most people, I think. Sheltered in place, as they like to call it; you can call it hunkered down. But they have opened shelters. About - maybe 2,000 people have gone to shelters in south Mississippi. But most people knew what to do. They boarded up; they - you know, they're in a safe place. It's the people who live in those very - you know, front lines, along the waterways; or who live in, you know, maybe mobile homes, or in swampy areas - those are the people who had to get out.

GREENE: And Debbie, just to get some context, I mean, a lot of us remember some of those awful images of Gulfport and Biloxi during Katrina. I mean, these big casinos - these, you know, big structures just being wiped away. I mean, are we getting anywhere close to that kind of potential damage?

ELLIOTT: Certainly not. This is not that powerful of a storm. And the eye - you know - of Katrina, remember, came across Waveland, Mississippi. So it was a little further to the east. This storm is further away; it's not near as strong. And you're not going to see the kinds of wind destruction that you saw during that storm.

The big, big question here is the flooding. And that's because as this storm lumbers around here, it's going to keep raining, keep raining. There are so many rivers and creeks in this region; they're going to fill up. And those waterways are not going to crest until this weekend, in some cases.

GREENE: Yeah, it really is a slow-moving storm. And it's - kind of sticking in the same position sounds like it's going to be the biggest potential problem. Deb, thanks so much.

ELLIOTT: Thank you, David.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Debbie Elliot, reporting from Gulfport, Mississippi.

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