A mosquito fleet of backyard and utility boats rescued stranded residents in beleaguered Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, and in St. John the Baptist Parish on Lake Pontchartrain as flooding from Isaac continued Thursday morning, even though it had diminished from an 80-mph hurricane to a 45-mph tropical storm.
As neighbors went out in their boats to rescue friends from attics and rooftops in low-lying Plaquemines, which straddles the Mississippi River, surge from the Gulf of Mexico continued to pour over 8-foot-high levees at high tide.
“We've never seen anything like this, not even Katrina,” parish president Billy Nungesser said at a press conference.
Click play to view the ferocity of the storm.
Nungesser said the floodwaters were worse along the east bank of the Mississippi than in 2005, when Katrina, a Category 3 hurricane at landfall, crushed New Orleans. “It's the pounding of this storm, sitting here so long [and] pushing up [the surge] like nothing we've seen before," he said.
Electrician Joshua Brockhaus seconded that after rescuing neighbors with his boat. "We didn't think it was going to be like that," he said. "The storm stayed over the top of us. For Katrina, we got 8 inches of water. Now we have 13 feet."
Communities along Lake Pontchartrain also were surprised by the days-long deluge and 6-foot surge. The storm surge came quickly and "in a different way from what we were expecting," said Paige Falgoust, a spokeswoman for St. John the Baptist Parish.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's office said Thursday morning that 1,500 people had been evacuated from parishes around New Orleans and that many people were awaiting rescue.
Click play to view footage of the storm surge.
Isaac made landfall Tuesday evening just a day shy of the seventh anniversary of Katrina, which left 1,800 dead along the northern Gulf Coast — many in New Orleans. New Orleans itself seems to have weathered the storm well, the $14 billion in repairs and upgrades to its levee system standing up to Isaac’s assault. Some parts of the city reported 19 inches of rainfall, although 6 to 14 inches was more typical. Gretna, La., reported 23.31 inches of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Mississippi also was taking a pounding. The municipal boat harbor at Pass Christian, which is undergoing a $33 million expansion, was under siege. Some $5 million worth of dredging seemed to have been for naught as tide and surge ate away at mountains of sand hauled out of Mississippi Sound and returned it to the water. Several boats were aground in the harbor, and the fishing pier is gone.
The National Hurricane Center reported that the storm was 125 miles northwest of New Orleans and moving northwest at 8 mph at 7 a.m. today. It was expected to turn north over Arkansas on Friday and into southern Missouri Friday night as a tropical depression, though still carrying the threat of inland flooding and tornadoes.