Hurricane Isaac: New Orleans battered by powerful winds as torrential rain brings heavy flooding to the city's suburbs


New Orleans was battered by powerful winds and torrential rain today, as Hurricane Isaac tore across the Gulf Coast, bringing storm damage and heavy flooding to under-protected suburbs of the City.

The storm, which swept through town on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, seemed unlikely to usher in a repeat of that disaster. But it caused an 11ft surge in sea levels around coastal areas, and breached levees in Plaquemines Parish, on the south-eastern outskirts of town.

Initial damage appeared to be centred on Braithwaite, a town of nearly 1,800 residents directly adjacent to the Mississippi. The river breached its levees in the early hours of yesterday morning, forcing homeowners to flee to upstairs floors of their properties.

More than a hundred were rescued, many of them by boat, according to the parish president, Billy Nungesser. He told reporters that parts of the parish, much of which is below normal river levels, were now under 12-14ft of water.

“We have reports of people on their roofs and attics,” said Mr Nungesser. “This storm has packed more of a punch than people thought.... My house has more damage than it did during Katrina... This’ll be historical.”

One victim, Gene Oddo, told how he was trapped in his attic. “I’m with my wife and my 18-month-old baby,” he told CBS. “The police came at 2am, and told us the levee had broke. Within an hour, water was coming up. It came so quick, it looks like we lost everything. If I have to, I’m going to shoot a hole in my attic here to get out on our roof.”

Mr Oddo and his family were reported to have been rescued several hours later. Plaquemines Parish, where they live, is not protected by a $15bn flood defence system introduced in the aftermath of Katrina. Officials said that the state-of-the-art system appeared to be doing its job of protecting major residential areas of New Orleans.

Isaac is officially classed as a Category One hurricane, with sustained wind speeds up to 80mph. It made landfall shortly after dark on Tuesday and proceeded north-west at roughly 6mph. By teatime yesterday the eye of the storm was 50 miles west-southwest of the city centre.

The streets were largely empty, save for emergency vehicles and military Humvees containing some of the 5,023 National Guardsmen rushed to the region. Minor damage, including uprooted trees and demolished scaffolding, could be seen throughout the historic French Quarter, and a curfew was declared from dusk to dawn.

On paper, Isaac appears to be a less powerful than Katrina, a Category Three storm, with wind-speeds of 130mph, which caused roughly $80bn worth of damage and led to the death of more than 1,800 people. But because it’s moving slowly, the storm is dumping colossal amounts of rain in relatively concentrated areas.

It won’t be possible to gauge the true extent of damage and flooding until later today, when Isaac is scheduled to move northwards through Louisiana, reaching Arkansas by tomorrow and Missouri on Saturday.

The clean-up operation will also focus on restoring electricity to the region, where 570,000 people, including 150,000 residents of New Orleans, are without power - in a part of the world where summer temperatures regularly top 100 degrees.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before