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Isaac leaves lots of water and power outages in its wake

The storm that first hit Louisiana Tuesday is moving into the nation's heartland, as of Friday. Thousands have been washed out of their homes and left in the dark.

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"I got back to my house to assess the situation, and it's a mess," he said. "That's all I can say."

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Isaac hit on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, a hurricane that devastated New Orleans.

The two storms had little in common. Katrina came ashore as a Category 3 storm, while Isaac was a Category 1 at its peak. Katrina barreled into the state and quickly moved through. Isaac lingered across the landscape at less than 10 mph and wobbled constantly. Because of its sluggishness, Isaac dumped copious amounts of rain. Many people said more water inundated their homes during this storm than during Katrina.

Both storms, however, caused the Mississippi River to flow backward. And both prompted criticism of government officials.

In the case of Isaac, officials' calls for evacuations so long after the storm made landfall caused some consternation.

Jefferson Parish Council President Chris Roberts said forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami needed a new way of measuring the danger that goes beyond wind speed.

"The risk that a public official has is, people say, 'Aw, it's a Category 1 storm, and you guys are out there calling for mandatory evacuations,'" Roberts said.

Eric Blake, a specialist at the hurricane center, said that although Isaac's cone shifted west as it zigzagged toward the Gulf Coast, forecasters accurately predicted its path, intensity and rainfall. He did say the storm came ashore somewhat slower than anticipated.

Blake cautioned against using Katrina as a benchmark for flooding during other storms.

"Every hurricane is different," Blake said. "If you're trying to use the last hurricane to gauge your storm surge risk, it's very dangerous."

Crews intentionally breached a levee that was strained by Isaac's floodwaters in southeast Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish, which is outside the federal levee system. Aerial images showed the water gushing out.

In Louisiana alone, the storm cut power to 901,000 homes and businesses, or about 47 percent of the state. That was down to 39 percent, or about 821,000, by Thursday evening, the Public Service Commission said.

Entergy Corp., Louisiana's largest power company, said Isaac knocked out power to nearly 770,000 of its customers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Only three storms have left more customers without power: Hurricanes Katrina (1.1 million), Gustav (964,000) and Rita (800,000), the company said in a news release.

More than 15,000 utility workers began restoring power to customers in Louisiana and Mississippi, but officials said it would be at least two days before power was fully restored.

In Mississippi, several coastal communities struggled with all the extra water, including Pascagoula, where a large portion of the city flooded and water blocked downtown intersections.

High water also prevented more than 800 people from returning to their homes in Bay St. Louis, a small town that lost most of its business district to Katrina's storm surge.

Robbie Daniel, 55, an industrial engineer, and his wife, Kathi, a retired school teacher, live in a house on the Tchoutacabouffa River in Biloxi, and hadn't left home since Tuesday. Their house is on stilts and was surrounded by chest deep water.

Kathi saw online Thursday that casinos could be opening so they hopped in a kayak, paddled to their car on higher ground and drove to Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport.

"Tired of sitting there watching rain," Kathi said.

IN PICTURES: Hurricane Isaac

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