Hurricane Isaac hit my home state of Louisiana (and my home parish of Ascension) on August 29th & 30th. Being an emergency planner in IEM’s Response and Recovery division, I am keenly interested, both professionally and personally, in how communities respond to storms like Hurricane Isaac. Even though Ascension Parish has faced massive flooding and damage to many homes, we have learned much from previous storms that makes us more resilient today than we were before.
I live in the southern portion of Ascension Parish where there was significant flooding. Dealing with the impact of the storm and the resulting high waters has been a stressful and exhausting situation. But I am happy to say that we came out of it unscathed. I had about 6 inches of water in my yard, but my house is raised far enough off the ground so it didn’t flood. The same can’t be said for many in my community and the surrounding communities. There are still many people with water in their houses and/or covering their roads. I have friends and relatives in the Ascension, Livingston, and St. James Parish areas that got water in their homes and a few of them lost everything. Some close friends have water up to their doorsteps and have been holding a 24-hour vigil watching and waiting. The water is finally starting to recede in most areas, but it is doing so very slowly. In addition, the area reeks of muddy water and the mosquitoes are out in full force. We haven’t seen as many snakes in the last few days, but I’m sure as we start to clean up, we will find them hiding in dry spots somewhere.
Many people have been comparing this storm to both Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. But as far as this area is concerned, this storm was more like Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Although we didn’t receive the same level of rain we did then, there were many places that flooded this time that didn’t flood then. The water for this storm rose very quickly and for many, there wasn’t enough time to react. A lot of these areas are prone to flooding, but it is usually a slow rise due to backwater flooding in which there is time to move your belongings and sandbag. This was not the case this time.
This has also been the first time that we have been threatened with the possibility of a levee breach and/or pump failure in my community. The volume of water in this area for this storm was uncommon with some comparing it to the flood of 1983, which was before the pumping station was constructed. Rain for the parish ranged from 8 to 14 inches in a 3 day period, with wind gusts of 50-60 mph. Most of the rivers crested at 1 – 2 feet above flood stages. But thankfully, the rain subsided and the water was able to spread into the swamp areas and the threat was lessened.
I took a photographic journal to document the amount of water around our home and from different places around my community. You can see more photos on IEM’s Facebookpage.
We are grateful for the concern from the nation and from fellow IEMers. It’s going to be a long recovery process, but we have a strong community base and we will come out of this stronger than before.
Author: Tori Siears, Emergency Planner, Response & Recovery Division