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Plaquemines Parish President: Damage Is Just As Bad As Katrina

A Plaquemines Parish vehicle rides through rising floodwater behind the levee as Isaac approaches on Tuesday.
Gerald Herbert
A Plaquemines Parish vehicle rides through rising floodwater behind the levee as Isaac approaches on Tuesday.

The eye of Isaac made its first landfall at Plaquemines Parish, a stretch of thin land southeast of New Orleans that extends into the Gulf from Louisiana.

According to the parish president, the damage there is just as bad, perhaps even worse, than what happened during Katrina.

In an interview with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, Billy Nungesser said the parish's levee had been overtopped and parts of the parish that had never flooded during a hurricane were under 5 feet of water.

Nungesser said he stopped by his home and part of his roof was missing and the back wall had moved.

"I don't know who's calling this a Category 1, but this is no Category 1," Nungesser said. "My house has more damage than it did during Katrina."

When Nungesser spoke to Steve, two of the city's employees, who operate the pumps, were stranded on top of the levee. The water came up so quickly, Nungesser said, that when they decided it was time to leave, their truck could not make it out from under the water.

"This'll be historical," Nungesser said.

If you remember, before the storm hit, Plaquemines, which is especially vulnerable to tropical cyclones, was one of the few parishes in Louisiana to issue a mandatory evacuation order for some residents. But Nungesser said those who did not heed the evacuation order and were in need of rescuing would have to wait until conditions improved and rescuers could get out there.

WWLTV has an interview with a man who said the water started coming up at his home around 2 a.m. When he spoke to the station, he was in his attic with his wife and his 1-year-old child. He said the water had reached the top of the door frame in the first floor, but that it had stopped rising.

"We're going to lose everything we got," he said. "It just came up so quick."

If the water continues to rise, he said, he would have to shoot his way out of the attic and onto the roof.

Update at 1:25 p.m. ET. Just The Roofs:

NPR's Greg Allen is in Braithwaite on west side of Plaquemines Parish. He called our Newscast unit while he was standing on the levee and reported that "water has engulfed the town."

Highway 39, said Greg, now ends there, and all you can see is roofs and the top of light poles. The National Guard is on the scene, Greg said, and has been rescuing people from roofs and attics. Some people, he reports, have called police from inside their attics, saying they have no way to get out.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said during a press conference that the whole west side of Plaquemines Parish is underwater, after the storm surge breached a nonfederal earthen levee.

That means the levee was not part of the $15 billion overhaul project undertaken after Hurricane Katrina.

Jindal said that the east side of Plaquemines Parish has an 8-foot levee but the water is expected to reach that height. Jindal said the parish president was in the process of ordering an evacuation for that side with help from the National Guard.

Update at 9:56 a.m. ET. Eerily Similar To Lower Ninth Ward:

A reporter for local station WWLTV has some video from Plaquemines Parish. On either side of the levee, all you can see is water.

The scene, says the reporter, was "eerily similar to what I saw in the Lower Ninth Ward" during Katrina.

People are being rescued by boat from their roofs and attics. The reporter says that most of the rescuers are fellow neighbors on their own boats.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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