Hurricane Isaac Pummels Louisiana Coast

Reply Wed 29 Aug, 2012 10:37 am
Hurricane Isaac Pummels Louisiana Coast
August 29, 2012
by Eyder Peralta and Scott Neuman - NPR

In its most recent advisory, the National Hurricane Centers says Isaac was creeping at 6 mph toward the northwest. Because the storm is already over land, it has weakened slightly with 75 mph winds.

The Center says that we should expect the chances for "dangerous storm surge" and flooding to continue through the night, but Isaac is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm in the next 12 hours.

— So far, it looks like Plaquemines Parish southeast of New Orleans has been one of the hardest hit areas. People are being rescued from roofs and others have fled to their attics because the water has gotten so high.

— FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told Morning Edition that rescues and recovery will be delayed by the slow movement of the storm.

"It's going to be a slow response until its safe to get out and move about," he said.

— The levee system, which underwent a $14 billion overhaul after Katrina, is performing as it should, the Army Corps of Engineers told the AP.

"We don't see any issues with the hurricane system at this point," Corps spokeswoman Rachel Rodi told the AP.

— About 500,000 people are without power across Louisiana and Mississippi, the AP reports.

— In the Mississippi Gulf coast, some flooding has been reported and power outages are starting to spread.

Our Original Post Continues:

Heavy, wind-driven rain from Hurricane Isaac was battering parts of Louisiana today, leaving tens of thousands without power as the slow-moving system crept northwestward, straining levees on its march inland.

But New Orleans has yet to feel the full brunt of Isaac, which came ashore at 7:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Even so, Isaac, a Category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds, was already putting an extensive $14.5 billion post-Katrina upgrade to New Orleans' levee system to the test exactly seven years after the 2005 hurricane hit the city, causing widespread devastation.

Although Isaac "wobbled" and moved west overnight, The Times-Picayune website noted late Tuesday night:

A storm surge causes tides to quickly rise while rough waves pound the concrete seawall along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Hurricane Isaac made landfall along the Gulf Coast and now threatens New Orleans.

"The huge storm still poses a major wind and rainfall threat to the New Orleans area, however. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward 185 miles."

Torrential rain — amounting to as much as 20 inches in some areas — was expected to linger for hours over parts of New Orleans. Already, the National Weather Service reported "significant flooding from overtopping of levees in the East Bank portion of Plaquemines [Parish]." The parish is on the southernmost tip of Louisiana.

The Associated Press quotes Parish spokesman Caitlin Campbell as saying water has breached an 18-mile stretch of the levee and that some homes are flooded, but that streets in the area were still passable.

NPR's Christopher Joyce, reporting from New Orleans, says that while flooding has occurred in Plaquemines, the levees there and elsewhere are holding so far. He says some residents in the area are being evacuated.

Ryan Bernie, a spokesman for the city of New Orleans, said the storm had caused only some minor street flooding before dawn and felled trees but had left roughly 125,000 customers in the city without power, according to the AP.

In total, The Times-Picayune reports some 250,000 residential and commercial customers in Louisiana were without electricity as of 11 p.m. Tuesday. NPR's Russell Lewis says "transformers are exploding like popcorn, sending bright flashes of light into the sky."

(Power outages can be tracked here.)

Thousands of police and Louisiana National Guard troops, activated by Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday, were prepared to answer rescue calls, state officials said.

A spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, Jill Bode, says volunteers with supplies are already providing help throughout the storm-affected regions.

"We're up to almost 2,500 people now that are either responding to situations in Florida, working in shelters throughout Texas and the rest of the Gulf area, or are on standby to start doing damage assessment," Bode said.

Tens of thousands of Louisiana and Mississippi residents living in low-lying areas were advised to leave their homes, but many of them chose to stay and ride out the storm, despite memories of Katrina's devastation and appalling death toll. Among those who were taken out of the storm's path were 700 patients of Louisiana nursing homes.

The National Weather Service says the storm is moving agonizingly slow at just 8 mph, giving it plenty of time to pummel and saturate affected areas. The center of the system is still approximately 60 miles southwest of New Orleans.

According to the NWS, "A general northwest motion at a slower forward speed is expected today and tonight ... followed by a turn toward the north-northwest by Thursday night or early Friday."

That will put the center of a likely weakened Isaac over southern Arkansas by early Friday.

Update at 12:06 p.m. ET. A Slow Response:

"Rain and lots of it, unfortunately."

That's what FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told Morning Edition when asked what he was seeing in Mississippi and Louisiana today. Fugate said water will be the big issue here.

The coastal communities have already seen flooding from the storm surge and that will only be made worst because the storm is moving so slowly and will continue to dump rain.

That slow movement will also hamper rescue and recovery efforts.

"It's going to be a slow response until it's safe to get out and move about," he said.

But Fugate said that FEMA is prepared to mobilize as soon as the weather clears.

Update at 11:32 a.m. ET. Levee System:

The AP reports that the levee system is holding up well. The AP reports:

"'The system is performing as intended, as we expected; we don't see any issues with the hurricane system at this point," said Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Rachel Rodi.

"She said the corps expected to be on 'high alert' for the next 12 to 24 hours."

Update at 7:20 a.m. EDT:

Amy Jeffries of member station WRKF in Baton Rouge says rain is just starting to fall in the city, with winds gusting to 50 mph.

Some 20,000 people are already without power in the state capital, she reports.


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Reply Tue 4 Sep, 2012 10:22 am
Sep. 04, 2012
Obama meets with Hurricane Isaac flood victims
Kathleen Hennessey and Christy Parsons | Tribune Washington Bureau


President Barack Obama surveyed flood damage caused by Hurricane Isaac and pledged Monday that the federal government will do all it can to help victims get back on their feet.

Meeting with families and local officials dealing with the disaster, Obama promised action to prevent such flooding in the future.

"What I pledge to these folks is to make sure at the federal level we're getting on the case very quickly" to figure out "what exactly happened here ... and make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.

The president noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee system had been bolstered in the seven years since Hurricane Katrina and had helped protect New Orleans this time.

An aide to the president said the Louisiana visit was "apolitical," designed to ensure that the federal government's disaster response was operating optimally. Among officials who briefed him was Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.

But the trip served a political purpose as Obama headed toward Charlotte, N.C., to accept the Democratic Party's presidential nomination later this week.

News coverage showed him at the site of the disaster, sleeves rolled up - a sharp contrast to images of President George W. Bush viewing Katrina's devastation from the air in 2005.

Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, visited the flooded area Friday, the day after accepting the nomination.

The Obama campaign designated the New Orleans detour as an "official" visit. It came at the end of a campaign day in which Obama delivered a pro-worker Labor Day message in the battleground state of Ohio.

It was not surprising that Democrats used the holiday to talk up unions, but somewhat unusual for the Republican candidate not to campaign on what was once considered the unofficial start of the general election season.

Coming off a week of events at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., Romney took Monday off. He and his family relaxed at their lakeside vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H., enjoying lunch on the porch. The only public sighting of the Republican nominee came early Monday morning at the marina that maintains his boats.

But Romney's running mate, Paul D. Ryan, campaigned in Greenville, N.C., where he compared Obama to Jimmy Carter - the last Democratic president to lose a re-election bid. The Carter years "look like the good old days" in comparison with the current state of affairs, Ryan said.

"Every president since the Great Depression who asked Americans to send them into a second term could say that you were better off than you were four years ago," Ryan said, "except for Jimmy Carter and President Barack Obama."

In Toledo, Obama's remarks included a protracted sports metaphor, a response to Romney's recent zinger that he was the coach who would lead the country to a winning season.

"The problem is, everybody has already seen his economic playbook," Obama said. "We know what's in it."

Obama, an ESPN devotee, continued the metaphor with three downs, an audible and a flag on the play. On third down, he said, Romney "calls for a Hail Mary - ending Medicare as we know it by giving seniors a voucher that leaves them to pay any additional cost out of their pocket!"

"I've got one piece of advice for you about the Romney/Ryan game plan, Ohio," Obama said. "Punt it away! It won't work. It won't win the game."

Touting his auto bailout, Obama defended organized labor.

"I don't understand why these folks have the nerve to talk about you like you're some greedy special interest that needs to be beaten down," he said, answering those who called the 2009 rescue a handout to his political constituency. "After all that unions have done to build and protect the middle class, they were standing up there at their convention saying you're responsible for the problems we face."

In Louisiana, presidential aides - but not Obama himself - took the opportunity to ask how Republican budget-cutting might affect the Federal Emergency Management Agency's ability to respond to future events.

"Apparently there's nothing the president's team won't politicize," said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck. "It's sad that the White House would stoop to using this heartbreaking event as an opportunity to distort his record and play politics. A Romney-Ryan administration will always ensure there is disaster funding for those in need."

(Times staff writer Maeve Reston in Wolfeboro, N.H., contributed to this report.)
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