Melanie Martinez stands in the front yard as family members salvage items… (Mario Tama / Getty Images )
It will likely take weeks to bring Louisiana back to normal after last week’s visit from Hurricane Isaac, an unusually wet storm that caused serious flooding in 10 parishes and damaged more than 13,000 homes.
State officials on Tuesday made their first estimates of the toll imposed by Isaac, which began to bring water to the Louisiana coast on Aug. 28. The slow-moving storm continued to drop rain on the region, causing flooding but no levee breaks -- unlike Hurricane Katrina, the deadliest hurricane of the 2005 season. Katrina, followed weeks later by Hurricane Rita, destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.
The damage from Isaac will be less, said Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. The 13,000 figure is an early estimate of the damaged homes and is expected to increase once state and federal teams complete their assessments.
PHOTOS: Tropical Storm Isaac
“This is a very preliminary number based on an initial assessment of communities that had flooding and wind damage,” said Stephens, speaking by telephone after a meeting of the Unified Command Group, led by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“We still have floodwaters in some areas. We expect that this number could rise after FEMA completes house-by-house inspections,” Stephens added. Those types of inspections will determine whether a damaged building can be repaired or needs to be torn down, which would increase the loss, she said.
As of Monday night, about 95,000 people had already sought aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for repairs, she said.
Isaac began having an impact on Louisiana on Aug. 28 and came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, the mildest classification. Though less forceful than other recent storms, Isaac hung around -- dropping fierce rain for days and causing extended flooding in 10 parishes, especially in Plaquemines and St. John the Baptist parishes, Stephens said.
“It was a little bit different type of storm,” she said. “Usually a storm comes in and moves on. This one came in and sat for a while and, until a few days ago, we were still doing rescues from the flooding. Flash flooding is not as much of a factor right now but we’re staying ready.”
Stephens estimated that the state has already spent $112 million in dealing with the storm and that local parish governments have spent about $10 million. Those figures are expected to rise.
Even though a return to full normalcy is expected to take weeks, there were signs Tuesday that the cleanup was working even as some areas remained flooded.
Electrical power had been restored to 98% of customers, officials said. Some 38,000 customers remained without electricity, down from the 900,000 outages at the peak of the storm last week. Fewer than 1,600 people remained in shelters, down from the high of about 6,000.
More than 229.1 miles of roadway have been cleared, officials said.
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