Isaac Punishes Mississippi Coast For Days

Isaac's lashing of the Mississippi coast has been relentless. For more than 36 hours, the storm sent wave after wave of driving rain and tropical storm force winds ashore, and spawned tornadoes. Flooding inland is widespread because of the more than 10 inches of rain dumped on the region.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, the effects of this slow-moving storm are being felt well beyond Louisiana. NPR's Debbie Elliot is in Gulf Port, Mississippi.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Isaac's lashing of the Mississippi coast has been relentless. For more than 36 hours, the storm sent wave after wave of driving rain and tropical storm force winds ashore and spawned tornadoes.

This was a familiar refrain all day Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: A tornado warning has been issued until 5:45 PM Central Daylight Time.

ELLIOTT: Mississippi was right in the path of strong storm bands that pushed coastal waters over roads and inundated vulnerable neighborhoods all across the coast, from Ocean Springs to Waveland. But even away from the frontlines, flooding inland is widespread because of the more than 10 inches of rain dumped on the region.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAIN)

ELLIOTT: Driving anywhere is nearly impossible because of standing water, like this small pond on Harrison Drive in North Gulfport.

SENTHERE JORDAN: Ain't nothing but a swamp.

ELLIOTT: Senthere Jordan wades knee high through the water in her front yard, which laps the steps of her front stoop.

JORDAN: I knew we were going have thunderstorms come in, you know, but not like this, all day long.

ELLIOTT: The conditions complicated response efforts. More than 70 roads are closed, making it difficult for workers to repair downed power lines or clear away debris.

Despite the weather, Governor Phil Bryant says special operations teams from the Mississippi National Guard used boats and Humvees to rescue more than 40 people stranded by floodwaters.

GOVERNOR PHIL BRYANT: That indicates to me that too many people in low-lying areas did not respond initially to our request to leave.

ELLIOTT: Some who did evacuate early tried to return home.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPLASHING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Are you guys coming back?

MARIE SMITH: We have no way to the house.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Huh?

SMITH: We have no way to the house.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Make sure you sign back in.

ELLIOTT: Marie Smith of Biloxi, nine-month old baby on her hip, brings bags through the door of the Red Cross shelter she had just checked out of a little while ago.

SMITH: We were trying to leave, but my stepdad called and said that there were power lines down on pass road, so we weren't going to be able to get through. And the wind was blowing too hard, so we just brought the stuff back in and stayed.

ELLIOTT: Smith and her family were quick to evacuate because they have raw memories of her grandmother who drowned in Katrina after refusing to leave her home seven years ago.

Several of the people staying in this shelter are also veterans of Katrina, and now they don't mess around.

ETTA MAE BREAUX: We leave, just like we left the other day.

ELLIOTT: Ninety-year old Etta Mae Breaux of Pass Christian was the first person to arrive at this shelter in North Gulfport. She says water is six feet high under her elevated home and still rising. But she's still smiling from her perch on a blue cot.

BREAUX: My booty getting tired, but I got pillow and sheets.

(LAUGHTER)

BREAUX: But it's comfortable. I'm glad to have what I got.

ELLIOTT: She'll be staying at least another night here at Harrison County High School, where the football team is called the Hurricanes.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Gulfport, Mississippi.

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