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Rescues in low-lying areas after Isaac storm surge

Associated Press Modified: August 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm •  Published: August 30, 2012
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CROWN POINT, La. (AP) — Isaac, downgraded to a depression Thursday, staggered toward north Louisiana, its weakening winds still potent enough to drive storm surge into portions of the coast and the River Parishes between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

As the water pushed its way into the nooks and crannies of several low-lying areas, military trucks and boats were deployed Thursday to help rescue families stranded in lower Jefferson Parish by floodwaters expected to reach upward of nine feet.

Large trucks from the sheriff's office rolled slowly up a flooded highway periodically to deposit evacuees rescued from flooded homes in the nearby Town of Lafitte.

Karen Weaver clutched one of her family's three small dogs as deputies helped her down from the bed of one truck.

"They came in a little airboat," Weaver said when asked how she was rescued. She said her house flooded Wednesday afternoon and she took refuge with her husband, 10-year-old grandson, and brother-in-law until authorities came to get her at the behest of her daughter, who lives in Chalmette.

Lafitte and other areas close to the coast began flooding as Isaac moved north and southerly winds pushed waters up bayous and waterways into low-lying areas. St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister said emergency responders had completed 350 rescues throughout the parish, using boats and high-water vehicles, after Bayou Bonfouca and Bayou Patassat overflowed Wednesday swamping parts of the City of Slidell.

Jefferson Parish Council President Chris Roberts estimated 100 people had been rescued from parts of Jefferson as of Thursday afternoon. He wasn't sure how many others were left but said, "We're going to continue to be here during the entire event."

Water covered three of the four roads that meet at the intersections of Lafitte and Barataria Boulevards, where a command post was set up. Standing near the array of police cars and rescue trucks were Paul and Tory Whipple, who was carrying a small, white bird swaddled in a dish towel. Paul Whipple said he found the bird, which he believed to be a small crane, with a broken leg near his house in the woods near Lafitte.

Col. John Fortunato, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said parts of Lafitte are only accessible by boat.

"We had to bring a lot of assets to get everything in position down here in preparation for the day, but as it stands at this point, the water is generally not this close up to the roadway," Fortunato said.

Lafitte, Barataria and Crown Point are more prone to flooding because they are outside the hurricane protection levee, but flooding is still worse than he's ever seen it, he said.

"It seems to have gotten to its high mark," Roberts said of the water, "so now for us it's getting pumps ready, positioning them and being able to get equipment down to where it needs to go to begin pumping out the water."

"Another problem we're having is communication," Fortunato said.

Phone lines are down or tied up and radio communications are sporadic, he said.

Terry Percle, who lives in Crown Point, said water started rising in his home around 1 a.m. Thursday and he and his family scrambled through it to get to the high ground of a nearby highway. "I woke my kids up and said we're going to have to get out because we're starting to take in water in the house," he said.

While the rest of his family fled to relatives who did not flood, Percle stayed behind to check on neighbors, some of whom escaped the flooding in canoes and waders.

"We've never flooded this bad," he said.

Another area resident, Robert Lacrosse, said he had about two feet of water in his home. He said the extent of damage from the then-Category 1 hurricane surprised him.

"When I got up in the morning to take a ride I seen trees down all over," Lacrosse said.

Water also rose in portions of St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes, where evacuations were ordered as it poured in from Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain. Flooding from Lake Pontchartrain was reported along its north shore in St. Tammany Parish, prompting evacuations in parts of Slidell.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Enforcement Division said its agents had rescued 1,537 people in St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes since Wednesday afternoon.

Robert Ricks, forecaster at the National Weather Service in Slidell, said Isaac was proving to be very wet on its east side and very dry in its western sections. Rainfall totals of 10-15 inches would be typical in Isaac's eastern sections, he said.

He said the storm, which had been moving at about the pace of a swift walk, was picking up a little speed as it neared Baton Rouge on a track that would take it through Alexandria and on north Thursday.

Statewide about 821,000 customers — about 39 percent of the state — were without electricity as of Thursday.

___

Associated Press writer Shelia V Kumar contributed to this report from St. Tammany Parish.


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