Hurricane Isaac Swamps Louisiana

Isaac dropped unrelenting rain Thursday, flooding areas north and south of New Orleans, and officials had to scramble to evacuate Louisiana and rescue people as waters quickly rose.


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Isaac dropped unrelenting rain Thursday, flooding areas north and south of New Orleans, and officials had to scramble to evacuate and rescue people as waters quickly rose. Inside the city, there were bursts of sunshine, the fortified defenses held and life began to slowly get back to some sort of normalcy.

As the storm slogged its way across the state and windy conditions calmed, the extent of some of the damage became clear. Hundreds of homes, perhaps more, were underwater, thousands of people were staying at shelters and half of the state was without power. About 500 people had to be rescued by boat or high-water vehicles and at least two people were killed.

And the damage may not be done. Waters continued to rise and a dam at a lake near the Louisiana-Mississippi border was under a lot of pressure.

Evacuations were ordered in a lot of places ahead of the storm, but Isaac's unpredictable, meandering path and the amount of rain — as much as 16 inches in some places — caught many off guard.

"I was blindsided, nobody expected this," said Richard Musatchia, who left his home in LaPlace, northwest of the city.

Musatchia said 5 feet of water filled his home before a neighbor passed by with a boat and evacuated him and his 6-year-old boxer, Renny.

He piled two suitcases, a backpack and a few smaller bags onto the boat and said that's all he has left. He left a brand-new Cadillac and a Harley-Davidson behind.

"People have their generators, because they thought the power would go out, but no one expected the water," he said.

Others trickled into a parking lot of the New Wine Christian Fellowship church, delivered by National Guard vehicles, school buses and pickup trucks.

Daphine and David Newman fled their newly decorate home with two trash bags of clothing. They have lived in their subdivision since 1992, and they never had water in their home from previous storms, including Katrina. The comparison was common one since Isaac hit on the seventh anniversary of the devastating 2005 storm, though the differences were stark.

Katrina was more powerful, a Category 3 at landfall, while Isaac was a Category 1 at its peak. Isaac wobbled around; Katrina barreled into the state and quickly moved through.

David Newman was frustrated the government spent billions reinforcing levees for New Orleans and Jefferson Parish after Katrina and now he had the water.

"The water's got to go somewhere," he said. "It's going to find the weakest link, and with the wind directions, we was ground zero."

Along the shores of Lake Ponchartrain near New Orleans, officials sent scores of buses and dozens of high-water vehicles to help evacuate about 3,000 people as rising waters lapped against houses and left cars stranded. Floodwaters rose waist-high in some neighborhoods, and the Louisiana National Guard was working with sheriff's deputies to rescue people stranded in their homes.

A Coast Guard helicopter hoisted a couple and their dogs early Thursday from a home in LaPlace, between the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain, after storm surge poured into their neighborhood and local authorities called for help. The couple was taken to New Orleans and reported in good condition.

"The husband and wife and their two dogs were in an area where a lot of houses washed away," said Lt. Cmdr. Jorge Porto. "They used a flashlight inside the house as a signaling device, which made all the difference in locating them effectively."

To the east, evacuations were ordered in a sparsely-populated area as a lake dam threatened to break near the Mississippi-Louisiana border. Officials in Tangipahoa Parish, La., feared the water it would pour into the already swollen river would flood low-lying areas downstream. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said officials there would release water at the dam.

A tow truck driver was killed Thursday morning when a tree fell on his truck in Picayune, Miss., just across the state line from Louisiana. In Vermilion Parish, a 36-year-old man died after falling 18 feet from a tree while helping friends move a vehicle ahead of the storm. Deputies did not know why he climbed the tree.

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