Hurricane Isaac has made landfall in Louisiana, but it is basically hovering over the Gulf Coast, moving very slowly. The slowness of the storm and the circulation of much of it over water means that it will probably continue for some time, which means days of rain and more flooding over a broad coastal region. Wind speeds have weakened to 75mph, but this is still a big, wet storm.
Jeff Masters at Weather Underground has the best update. As of this morning (around 11am ET), the storm had already dumped copious amounts of rain on the surrounding area:
9.26″ New Orleans Lakefront Airport
5.59″ Belle Chasse, LA
5.21″ Mobile, AL
3.65″ Hattiesburg, MS
3.42″ Gulfport, MS
2.81″ Biloxi, MS
In addition, the storm surge was fairly high, according to NOAA. The surge topped 11 feet in places like Waveland, Mississippi and Shell Beach, Louisiana. It was smaller the farther away you got from the eye of the storm. The surge was equivalent to that during Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Plaquemines Parish was hit particularly hard, including overtopping of one levee, which was locally maintained. The eight-foot levee had no chance against a twelve-foot storm surge.
New Orleans’ levees and pumps were holding up to the rain and storm surge caused by Hurricane Isaac, but areas outside the defense network saw flooding, including an 18-mile stretch to the south where up to 12 feet of water invaded streets and homes.
Officials in Plaquemines Parish, where the surge overtopped an 8-foot levee, said National Guardsmen and even residents were rescuing people trapped in homes. Up to 60 people appear to be trapped, NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reported from the area. Rescuers earlier pulled several dozen to safety.
“We have flooding, inundated four-to-nine feet in areas on that side” of the levee, parish emergency management official Guy Laigast told the Weather Channel. “We’ve got homes that have been inundated. We have folks who are trapped in their residences.”
Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish, whom you might remember for his colorful commentary during Hurricane Katrina, claimed that the damage from Isaac is worse for his area. Around half of the residents of the area did evacuate, but the rest ignored the mandatory order. Rescues are underway.
So far, New Orleans seems to be holding up, with the pumps working and only scattered street flooding from the heavy rains. But 60% of the city is without working power. Region-wide, over 500,000 homes are without power at the moment. And we have a ways to go.