BELLE CHASSE, Louisiana — Storm-weary residents hunkered down for a hot, wet and windy wait on Wednesday as Hurricane Isaac slowed to storm force but looked set to linger over southern Louisiana.
Officials urged residents to stay indoors and warned it would be at least a day before winds calmed enough for crews to try to repair downed power lines.
Dozens of people who refused to heed mandatory evacuation orders were trapped by flood waters after a massive storm surge rolled water over the levees protecting low-lying Plaquemines Parish overnight.
Some 118 people were rescued by midday and 25 more were still waiting on their rooftops in the pouring rain and pounding winds, parish president Billy Nungesser told reporters.
About 350 people were crammed into three emergency shelters in the coastal parish south of New Orleans and officials were working on opening a fourth shelter as Isaac continued to pound this low-lying coastal area.
Claude Jones, 61, was trying to nap on a cot in the high school gymnasium without much luck.
He’d been there two nights already and with his trailer in Empire likely totally destroyed by the storm surge he could be here for many, many more.
“I’m worried about my family,” he told AFP. “My cousin’s still down there and they say they can’t rescue him because the weather’s so bad.”
Keeping the kids occupied has been exhausting, said 34-year-old Kylie Polk.
“It’s hard. I’m just so ready to go home. I’ll be glad when this storm do what it’s going to do.”
But Polk was counting her blessings. She’s pretty sure her home will survive the storm, unlike some of her family members who live on the wrong side of the levees.
“I just feel so sorry for them, starting all over again,” she told AFP.
Isaac was a relatively weak Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall late Tuesday, but it still packed a punch.
Trees were torn out of the rain-soaked earth, roofs were ripped off and streets were littered with debris.
Nearly half a million people were out of power after lines were knocked down. Officials warned that many downed lines remained live and posed deadly hazards for anyone who set foot in the wrong puddle.
Governor Bobby Jindal said he had unconfirmed reports that one person had died in a house fire triggered by flooding, but the casualty toll was limited.
Since flooding triggered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which saw 1,800 people killed on the Gulf Coast, New Orleans has built a multi-billion dollar system of levees, pumping stations and drainage channels.