Slow-Moving Isaac Waterlogs Parts Of Louisiana

The remnants of Hurricane Isaac have left Louisiana behind. But parts of the state will be rebuilding for a long time to come. The storm brought extensive flooding to communities that had been largely spared during earlier hurricanes.

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The remnants of Isaac have left Louisiana behind, but parts of the state will be rebuilding for a while. The storm brought extensive flooding to communities that had been largely spared during earlier hurricanes. NPR's Joel Rose rode along as Louisiana's governor toured one such town on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain outside New Orleans.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Governor Bobby Jindal was only on the ground in Madisonville, Louisiana for about an hour. But that was long enough to survey the waterlogged homes and businesses in this old resort town near Lake Pontchartrain from the back of an army truck.

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL: We've seen communities that have never been flooded all of the sudden get four, five, six, seven, eight feet of water.

ROSE: Madisonville is just one of the many flooded cities and towns Jindal has seen firsthand as he's traveled across the state in the past few days. And he says a lot of those communities have something in common.

JINDAL: People that have lived there for decades and decades will tell you they can't remember getting that kind of water in some of those neighborhoods. So every storm is different. We always tell people: You've got to be careful. You can't just assume because the previous storm left your house intact that this one will, as well.

ROSE: Isaac wasn't the strongest storm ever to hit Louisiana, but it might have been the slowest. The storm dumped nearly two feet of rain in many places. That, coupled with higher sea levels as the storm came ashore, proved a surprisingly destructive combination. Pat Brister is the president of St. Tammany Parish, which includes Madisonville and other hard-hit north shore towns, including Slidell.

PAT BRISTER: We were expecting the large storm, but it was a low-grade, a Category 1 storm. That means a lot of wind. We knew there was going to be a lot of rain. What we did not expect was the surge from the lake until we were into the storm.

ROSE: As a helicopter waited to take Governor Jindal to the next disaster site, Brister said local residents have already started cleaning up the mess, just as they did after Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.

BRISTER: People just came out and started doing their own clean-up, their own work. So, I can tell you, there will be people out today cleaning their own yards, their own property up.

ROSE: Madisonville resident Mark Gagliano sawed through a tree branch that had fallen over during the storm.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAWING)

ROSE: Gagliano had just come home to Madisonville after waiting out the storm on higher ground. What really surprised him wasn't the damage to his trees. It was the flood waters that had crept all the way onto his front porch before receding.

MARK GAGLIANO: We got water, first time ever. This house was built by a ship captain back in the 1870s, and to my knowledge, it's never flooded until now. And I'm assuming he probably picked the highest spot in town.

ROSE: Gagliano's neighbor across the street has lived in Madisonville for his entire life. Jean Pelloat rode out Isaac in his house, as he has many, many storms before it.

JEAN PELLOAT: Going through Katrina, going through Betsy, going through Camille - a lot of storms before it with more wind and - but never this much water. It was a nervous feeling, helpless feeling.

ROSE: It's a feeling many in the state can understand as they wait for the water to subside and the clean-up to begin. Joel Rose, NPR News, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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