Isaac finally leaves Gulf; uncertainty fills gap

By Vicki Smith

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 1 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"We could absorb $1 billion — at least 50 percent of that — alone," she said.

"I realize he's all about cutting this federal government," Landrieu said of Romney, "but this is one agency that cannot — absolutely cannot — take any additional cuts."

The Gulf Coast needs a state-of-the-art, comprehensive flood protection system, she said, calling it "just inconceivable" that hundreds if not thousands of people still see water up to their rooftops.

To the east, officials pumped and released water from a reservoir, easing the pressure behind an Isaac-stressed dam in Mississippi on the Louisiana border. The threat for the earthen dam on Lake Tangipahoa prompted evacuations in small towns and rural areas.

Crews intentionally breached a levee that was strained by Isaac's floodwaters in southeast Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish, which is outside the federal levee system. Parish President Billy Nungesser said the work was slow-going.

Workers were only able to reach one spot, he said, and 10 to 12 cuts were planned. The levee is cut as the tide goes out, he said, then patched while the tide comes back.

The storm cut power to 901,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana alone, or about 47 percent of the state, but that was down to fewer than 620,000 by late Friday.

More than 15,000 utility workers began restoring power to customers there and in Mississippi, but officials said it would be days before power was fully restored.

Farmer Matt Ranatza fled with his disabled wife from Jesuit Bend to Metairie, about 25 miles away, before the storm hit. He didn't get any water in his house but has no power. Now he fears the electricity won't be restored for at least a month — the same length of time he was displaced after Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

"It's priorities. It's triage, you know?" he said. "I mean, the city's got to get theirs first and then ... it trickles down to us."

While Ranatza could travel back and forth to check on his more than 200-acre citrus and vegetable farm, others like Lisa Encalade found water blocking the way to their homes.

The 42-year-old stay-at-home mom was headed to Shreveport, nearly 380 miles north of her home in Pointe a La Hache, with her five sons ranging in age from 8 to 21 years old. She has no idea when she'll return.

"I'm just going to put my hand in the hand of the man up above and take it from there, have my faith in God because it's all I can do," she said.

Sixty-year-old June DeMolle was displaced from her home in Pointe a La Hache for three years after Katrina. "They're telling us it's going to be less time. They're going to get us back home as fast as they can," she said, sounding skeptical.

But others like Diamond resident Reginald Fountain, 45, said the risk of such storms comes with the territory in south Louisiana.

"This is where our home is, where we have our roots, our family," Fountain said as he also boarded a bus to Shreveport with his mother, brother, a niece and a nephew. "We know the consequences of living where we live. That's why we have homeowners' insurance, flood insurance, wind insurance. It's expensive ... but it's what we do now."

Plaisance reported from Lafitte. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Kasie Hunt in Lafitte; Brian Schwaner and Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge; Kevin McGill in Houma; Sheila Kumar in Alexandria; and Holbrook Mohr in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

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