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Surveying the Aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac

August 31, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Louisiana Public Broadcasting reports on the "heart-wrenching" effects of Tropical Storm Isaac. Charlie Whinham reports in Baton Rouge, La., from a field hospital where hundreds of evacuees with special needs are being treated. Shauna Sanford goes to LaPlace where flood damage was worse after Isaac than Hurricane Katrina.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to the damage done by Isaac.

The storm is making its way north, hitting Arkansas and Mississippi today, and heading for the Ohio River Valley this weekend. Waters are receding in Louisiana, but cleanup could stretch out for weeks, after Isaac dumped more than a foot of rain and left some homes under 12 feet of water.

Our colleagues at Louisiana Public Broadcasting have spent the last 48 hours covering the impact.

We have two dispatches, beginning in Madisonville, near Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans.

The correspondent is Charlie Whinham.

CHARLIE WHINHAM, Louisiana Public Broadcasting: Along the north shore in Saint Tammany Parish, a levee break near Madisonville flooded roughly 90 percent of the town.

Greg Lalonde has lived in his Madisonville neighborhood for 12 years. He even moved recently to a home further away from Lake Pontchartrain, in hopes he would be safer from the floods.

GREG LALONDE, La.: Bought this house in October and we completely remodeled it. It had never had water in it. You can see that the water was up above the base of those window frames right there, and that put about eight inches of water in this house.

That house has been here — that boarding house has been here for over 100 years. It never had water in it, and it has got six inches of water in it. Well, we’re coming back. There is no doubt about that. We will rebuild. But it’s a heartbreaker.

CHARLIE WHINHAM: Heading east Baton Rouge and the campus of LSU. The school is holding hundreds of evacuees with special medical needs. And just blocks away from the makeshift emergency health facility, the campus is also hosting close to 100,000 football fans for the home opener at Tiger Stadium on Saturday.

Once again, the LSU Field House is no stranger for hurricane relief efforts.

JAMIE ROQUES, Louisiana State University: We have doctors and nurses here from different state agencies, some volunteers. And we take care of people who don’t qualify to go into a hospital, but can’t take care of themselves at home. And so we take care of them here.

I think it was in 1996. It started off with Hurricane Georges, if you all remember that. We set up about four shelters. We’ve worked like Hurricane Georges. We set up for Hurricane Ivan. We have done Lili. We have done Rita, Katrina. We were here for that storm and took care of 11,000 people. We did Gustav and Ike, and now we’re doing Hurricane Isaac.

JEFFREY BROWN: Our second report is from Shauna Sanford. She spoke with people in St. John the Baptist Parish in LaPlace also near Lake Pontchartrain and west of New Orleans.

SHAUNA SANFORD, Louisiana Public Broadcasting: It may look like a small lake, but it’s really just the shoulder of airline highway heading toward LaPlace, the handiwork of Hurricane Isaac.

STACEY BRENNAN, La.: The roads look horrible. The subdivisions are horrible.

SHAUNA SANFORD: Stacey Brennan and her husband were among the many residents of St. John the Baptist Parish who waited in gas lines for hours to fill up their vehicles and gas cans.

While the area has never taken on this much water, Stacey says they have seen and weathered plenty of storms.

STACEY BRENNAN: We were in Andrew in 1992. My mom’s house got totalled. For Katrina — so we just try to bunker down and help everybody who we can help and help ourselves.

SHAUNA SANFORD: And in some areas on Thursday, the water was still very deep, sending search crews from the military, sheriff’s office, National Guard and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries into neighborhoods to rescue those trapped inside their homes.

Despite the threat of Isaac, Tracy Echard never considered leaving her home.

TRACY ECHARD, La.: I have been here about six years and I have got other people that have been here 10, 20, 30 years and says this has never happened in LaPlace. That is what we all say.

SHAUNA SANFORD: Residents have been forced to evacuate. They have boarded buses that are now headed to shelters in Alexandria, Shreveport and Monroe.

Returning from out of town, Eric Dupree found his home underwater.

ERIC DUPREE, La.: It’s heart-wrenching, but you can’t do nothing about it.

SHAUNA SANFORD: Waiting nearby was Gerard Trigo, who works for the parish’s animal control department.

GERARD TRIGO: We couldn’t get out and we ended up having to call for somebody to evacuate us. Katrina, the water only came up to about halfway up my driveway. This here, the water came in the house about two feet.

TRACY ECHARD: You never know what to expect. You never know. You know, you have been around for years, and, still, it doesn’t happen to us, it doesn’t happen to us. It will happen to whoever, whenever. You never know. You can’t stop Mother Nature, no matter where are you at.

SHAUNA SANFORD: A tough lesson to learn, but one she and others won’t soon forget.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the wake of Isaac, some state and local officials are pressing anew for a federal commitment to strengthen flood walls and levees for other parts of Southern Louisiana.