Thousands of people in south Louisiana have been stranded on rooftops in attempt to not drown in powerful Hurricane Isaac’s wind and waters that toppled an 18-mile stretch of one Mississippi levee south of Louisiana and prompted one parish to use Reverse 911 Emergency. Today, on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that drowned hundreds of people, today, National Guardsmen and other disaster relief workers are attempting to help rescue people from drowning in Hurricane Isaac.
“We’ve rescued at least 23 people including children,” Jesse Shaffer, 25 of Braithwait told a Times Picayune reporter on his cell phone Wednesday morning while aboard his boat conducting rescues, as Plaquemine Parish President Billy Nungesser confirmed.
Nungesser says rescues thus far have included a woman and her 5-month-old baby from a roof.
Thousands of people in the area are still stuck in homes or attics, as rescuers are out in boats helping those needing it most.
Wednesday morning, water surged over an 18-mile stretch of a levee in Plaquemines Parish south of New Orleans, invading streets and homes with up to 12 feet of water and chasing people into attics and onto rooftops in attempt to survive.
“This is a g**damn shame,” Cheryl Hicks said amid a water rescue. “I’ve lived in Braithwaite for 53 years and this is my first time seeing something like this. This hasn’t ever happened to us. This is a shame.”
“The water came up so quickly and overtopped the levees from Breakaway to White Ditch on the east back of the north end of the parish. It’s an area that we called for a mandatory evacuation,” Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser told told “Good Morning America.”
Speaking with ABC News affiliate WFAA at one scene of a water rescue by the local fire department in Plaquemines Parish, Hicks said waves crested above her head.
“It’s over 20 feet,” she said. “It is horrible. Everybody’s home is gone. Nobody has a house in Braithwaite. Nobody.”
Officials launched a Reverse 911 Emergency system to reach as many people as quickly as possible by engaging citizen help using cell phones, since most lines and power are out.
National Guard units were awaiting orders to enter Braithwaite and farther down Plaquemines’s east bank to help rescue people and evacuate them.
At 9 a.m., 30 to 40 vehicles were stranded atop the Plaquemines levee awaiting a ferry, with water all around, according to a contactor who works for the parish. That ferry provides the sole way off that flooded spit of land.
A source told ABC News that nearly the entirety of the area has been flooded, and winds still howl, preventing a ferry from approaching.
There have been varying reports of wind speeds between 80 and 110 mph.
Guy Laigast, Plaquemine’s director of emergency preparedness, reported that parish boats were on the way to aid with rescues.
St. Bernard Parish president and sheriff said this morning that they are working with federal, state and local officials to coordinate the rescue effort.
It appeared from earlier reports that as Isaac moves north, it might start pushing water out of the east and into the west.
Plaquemine Parish officials are heavily monitoring Barataria Bay that had reportedly risen 2 feet from about 4:30 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Isaac’s slashing rain and fierce winds knocked out power to more than 500,000 people in south Louisiana.
In New Orleans, power lines sparked across city streets after transformers exploded across the city Tuesday night.
Approximately 4,130 people are in hurricane shelters across Louisiana, 730 in state-run shelters and 3,237 evacuees in parish run shelters, according to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
People are having trouble reaching loved ones in the storm as cell phone batteries run out of power, same as occurred during Katrina seven years ago.
Concerned family and friends can search a list of loved ones who registered as “safe and well” by clicking “Search Registrants” button on the American Red Cross website. Results of a successful search will display a loved one’s first name, last name and a brief message.
Sources: The Times Picayune, NBC 10, ABC News