Hurricane Isaac 'Fooled A lot Of People'

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Marlaine Peachey works in the mayor's office in Mandeville, La. During severe weather she mans the office 24-7. She tells Steve Inskeep that Hurricane Issac was a water event they didn't expect.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Many people have felt the effects of Hurricane Isaac, which is now a tropical storm. But few people had quite the perspective of Marlaine Peachey. She works in Mandeville, Louisiana, a town on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, near New Orleans, Louisiana. And she's on the line.

Welcome to the program.

MARLAINE PEACHEY: Thank you. Good morning.

INSKEEP: I'm told that when a hurricane happens, you have a special job. What is it?

PEACHEY: I usually stay at City Hall 24/7 to answer the phones, direct calls, help with problems, whatever I can do.

INSKEEP: You spend the night there. You bring a mattress or something?

PEACHEY: Yes, I do.

INSKEEP: That sounds like it could be kind of scary. You're the only person in there, I imagine.

PEACHEY: No, sir. There's a girl up front that answers the front phone, and I, generally. And the mayor, of course, stays. He is here during the duration, but he leaves in and out to check roads and houses and things like that.

INSKEEP: So you're just there for reassurance, basically. If somebody calls, you want somebody to be there to answer the phone.

PEACHEY: We like to be here for our citizens, and we get a variety of calls. And so we want them to know we're here and we can help them in any way possible.

INSKEEP: So what have the last couple of nights been like?

PEACHEY: Well, I've only been here two nights, because Monday was quite calm. You wouldn't even know a hurricane was on its way. It was so slow that it took a while getting here. And so last night and tonight are the only two nights I've had to sleep.

INSKEEP: So what have they been like?

PEACHEY: It wasn't nerve-wracking at all. It was just the storm was so slow in coming and the problem was it pushed water as it came along. As time went on, we realized we were going to have a water event that we didn't expect.

INSKEEP: And how much water has ended up coming to your town?

PEACHEY: The lake actually surged at nine feet.

INSKEEP: Nine feet, meaning nine feet above - what is that, nine feet above the flood stage, nine feet above normal, what does that mean?

PEACHEY: Above normal, yes.

INSKEEP: So what has it - if you've been able to get out of City Hall at all, what have you seen out there? What have you heard about?

PEACHEY: Well, actually, I never left City Hall at all, except once or twice just to check my own house and come right back. But the mayor traveled the roads and would come back and tell me. And at the lakefront, roughly at one point before it even surged, the water was all the way up to your chest level. So that's pretty high.

And people would call in whose homes were raised due to previous hurricanes, and it was getting close to where they had raised their homes to. So that was pretty scary. But we've gotten the same amount of water we've had from Hurricane Katrina.

INSKEEP: The same amount of water. And you've got people that even responded to Hurricane Katrina by improving their homes and even they were on the verge of losing everything.

PEACHEY: Yes, sir.

INSKEEP: That's really startling. And I guess that must've been a surprise, because people did not expect this to be nearly so damaging an event as Katrina was.

PEACHEY: No, they did not. And we had voluntary evacuations for those in low-lying areas. But being a Category 1, it fooled a lot of people.

INSKEEP: So what does the town do now?

PEACHEY: Well, the waters are presently receding and the winds have died down. And as the water goes down tomorrow, or this morning, rather, the mayor will come in and, you know, do assessments on damage and speak with debris monitoring, debris removal companies, and get started on clean-up.

INSKEEP: Will you be able to go home and get some sleep in your own bed?

PEACHEY: No, I'll work tomorrow all day. I'll probably go home tomorrow night.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, Ms. Peachey, thanks very much for your service. Appreciate it.

PEACHEY: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's Marlaine Peachey in Mandeville, Louisiana, in the path of Hurricane Isaac.

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