Slow-Moving Isaac Still Left Destruction In Its Wake

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There were many problems across Louisiana and Mississippi Thursday as people dealt with the aftermath of Isaac. In Slidell, La., water began to flood the historic downtown area and police needed to do house-to-house rescues.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

The rain from the remnants of Isaac finally stopped falling today in southern Louisiana and Mississippi, at least for a few hours. But the slow-moving storm left widespread flooding and destruction in its path. While the levee system surrounding New Orleans appears to have held, many other communities weren't so lucky.

NPR's Joel Rose visited Slidell, Louisiana. He has this report.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLOSHING WATER)

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: The only way to see much of Slidell today was by boat.

JAMES BOSCH: Good, you're here just in the nick of time. Give my wife a break. Pick up the front of that boat, boy.

ROSE: James Bosch and his wife were loading their boat onto the back of a pickup truck after paying a visit to their house in Slidell's Palm Lake neighborhood.

BOSCH: We wanted to come back in and get the refrigerator cleaned out before, you know, it got rotten, and get some clothes. We're staying at my mom's on the other side of Slidell where it's dry.

ROSE: The Bosch's house is anything but. Mary Bosch says the streets of her neighborhood are hidden under many feet of water.

MARY BOSCH: This hurricane moved so slow. It just sat on the lake and just kicked and kicked and kicked, and it's just moving 5 miles an hour. It's just pumping more water in.

ROSE: Palm Lake is a low-lying area of Slidell near the banks of Lake Pontchartrain, about 30 miles northeast of New Orleans. The neighborhood has already rebuilt from flooding during Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. The Bosch's neighbor, Steven Stuvenrauch, says it's discouraging to think about what that entails.

STEVEN STUVENRAUCH: Oh, yeah, I mean, you're losing everything again. And you got to figure out where you're going to stay and what you're going to do. And I got to take off from work now because I got to start - once the water goes down, I got to start gutting the houses out and cleaning it up.

ROSE: There was no major man-made levee system that failed in Slidell. The storm surge from Isaac, combined with massive amounts of rainfall over the last two days, caused the lake level to rise and rise, and that water had to go somewhere. It poured back into the bayous that normally drain out into the lake. It overtopped the railroad tracks that act as a natural levee, and it spilled out into the streets.

RANDY SMITH: We just can't handle it. Our pumps can't handle it. And what they can handle, it's backing up in the ditches and the lower areas, causing the flooding of several houses, causing us to begin and continue rescue operations in those areas.

ROSE: Randy Smith is the chief of police in Slidell. He and about half a dozen other officers jammed into a mobile command truck to avoid a passing shower. Smith says law enforcement officials were using boats and military vehicles that can drive through deep water to evacuate people who were stranded in their homes.

SMITH: They panicked. There's no power. There was no way for them to get help. They have animals and dogs, and little kids, and it makes it a little difficult.

ROSE: Police here say they had rescued more than 100 people in the wake of Isaac, but they hadn't accounted for everyone yet. Jeretta Mason came to the temporary police headquarters to ask about his son in Palm Lake, whom he hadn't spoken to since yesterday.

JERETTA MASON: Trying to find out about my son and his wife and their two children. They got a little 7-month-old baby. You know, they're in an area I can't get to and I can't reach them by phone.

ROSE: Slidell wasn't the only community on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain dealing with the aftermath of Isaac. Across St. Tammany Parish, thousands remained without electricity. Commerce ground to a halt in Olde Town Slidell, where the streets were filled with up to 4 feet of brown, brackish water. But at least one local business was getting to ready to re-open.

KEITH MOFFITT: We don't have any power in right now so just be careful when you walk in. It's kind of dark.

ROSE: Keith Moffitt works at the Times Grill. Moffitt was getting ready to start up a generator so that the restaurant could serve dinner tonight.

MOFFITT: It's frustrating as, you know, you want to get back to normal as soon as possible, of course, you know? But I mean, we deal with it. We're living - we're from South Louisiana, and I've, you know, I've been through several hurricanes, and we drive on. That's how, you know, pretty much what we do.

ROSE: The residents of Slidell and other Northshore towns will have to do it all again once the flood waters from Isaac start to recede.

Joel Rose, NPR News, Slidell, Louisiana.

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