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5:39 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Floodwaters Begin To Recede After Hurricane Isaac

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The floodwaters have begun to recede in Louisiana and Mississippi as the remnants of Hurricane Isaac move north. Utility companies are scrambling to restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers. In some places, floodwaters are hampering the recovery. That includes an area about 30 miles west of New Orleans where we find NPR's Joel Rose.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: I'm standing by the side of a road in LaPlace, Louisiana, in a development called Belle Grove. At least I think it's the side of the road. You can't really see it because it's all covered in water. At this end of the block, the waters receded enough for residents to get back into their houses and to start throwing away their waterlogged furniture. I'm looking at several couches, a love seat, flat-screen TV in front of the houses across the street.

BILL GOMILA: I have a sunken den, so that water stayed in that. It didn't leave with everything else. So I've been pumping that out and just throwing furniture out as you see here.

ROSE: Bill Gomila says the furniture is just the beginning. After that, he'll have to start cleaning out the house itself, including the sheetrock and the carpet. He's not alone. More than 3,000 people had to be evacuate from LaPlace and the surrounding parish when floodwaters rushed in from Lake Pontchartrain about a mile away.

ALVIN VICKNAIR: I evacuated my house when it was to my garage door.

ROSE: Alvin Vicknair left his house in the River Forest neighborhood of LaPlace when the flood got up to the hood of his wife's truck. His house took on four feet of water. Vicknair knows what's ahead because he helped friends in New Orleans gut their houses after Hurricane Katrina. But Vicknair says it's different when the place is your own.

VICKNAIR: You can go home and sit in your air conditioning and put your TV back on, take a shower, you know? But you can't do any of that now. It's just disgusting. Natural disaster but it's just a disgusting feeling. You don't know what to do. I'm 45 years old and you - I sort of cry when I pull in the driveway.

ROSE: It's not clear when the most basic services will return to parts of LaPlace. Power is still out across large swaths of Louisiana. Flooded roadways are making it difficult for power trucks or anyone else to travel in low-lying parts of the state. In LaPlace, most businesses are still closed. Residents waited in long lines to buy gasoline and even groceries.

KEVIN EDLER: We still got water. We don't have any ice. Our ATM is down, but we are able to take on debit cards and Visa and MasterCard right now.

ROSE: Kevin Edler is an assistant manager at Food 4 Less. He opened the store at 8:30 this morning with three staff members instead of the usual 18.

EDLER: We tried to open up with a skeleton crew. We're trying to get as many in and out as we can. I can't allow everybody at one time because I don't have enough employees today. I guess most of them evacuated or not in town, you know, or who knows what kind of damage they may have had, you know?

ROSE: One of the customers waiting in line was Ashley DeLeon, who was just hoping to stock up on some of the basics.

ASHLEY DELEON: Looking for ice because the schools run out of ice - no ice, no breads, no - people looking for cigarettes.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSE: In other parts of the state, the water has receded more quickly and cleanup efforts are further along. Garbage pickup was scheduled to resume today in Slidell on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, which was also hit hard by flooding. Water dropped below emergency levels at a dam on the Tangipahoa River that it threatened tens of thousands of homes in Mississippi and Louisiana. Earlier today in Baton Rouge, Governor Bobby Jindal said that almost 30 percent of the state's residents were still without power. But he's optimistic that percentage will drop by the weekend.

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL: If conditions hold and utilities are able to get in there and do the work they expect to be able to do today, the percentage of outages could go down as low as 10 percent by Saturday. And so they do expect to be able to make tremendous progress today.

ROSE: But for those without power and air conditioning, it may be an uncomfortable weekend with temperatures in the 90s forecast for much of the state. Joel Rose, NPR News, La Place, Louisiana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.