Tag Archives: Hurricane Isaac

What is a Storm Surge?

The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is from the storm surge!

Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level to heights impacting roads, homes and other critical infrastructure. In addition, wind driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide. This rise in water level can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with the normal high tides.

Hurricane Specialist, Bryan Norcoss, from the Weather Channel, explains the science behind a storm surge in the days leading up to Hurricane Isaac in August 2012.

Because much of the United States’ densely populated Atlantic and Gulf Coast coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level, the danger from storm tides is tremendous.

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West Nile Virus

Sept 26 (Reuters) – More than 400 new U.S. cases of West Nile virus emerged in the last week, in an outbreak that remains the second worst on record but has begun to show signs of slowing.

States with large number of cases include Mississippi, Michigan, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, California, and Texas.

West Nile Virus: Another 400 Cases Reported In The Last Week, CDC Says http://huff.to/RiAHoT via @HuffPostGreen

Resiliency in the Gulf Coast

“One thing you know about folks in Louisiana, they are resilient.  People in Mississippi they are resilient.  They know what tough times are like, but they know they can bounce back.”President Barack Obama, September 3, 2012

Today marks the 127th day of production.  Since leaving Seattle, we’ve visited over a dozen communities that have experienced the deadliest and most devastating disasters in American history.  Along the way, we’ve heard some truly amazing survival stories and met some incredibly inspirational people.

Right now, we’re in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana.  It’s a small fishing village (pop. 1,904) located at the southern end of Louisiana Highway 45 along Bayou Barataria.  As the crow flies, it’s just 15 miles from New Orleans.  But culturally, it’s a world apart.  Primarily inhabited by a proud, tight knit group of Cajun, Creole, and Spaniards with ancestral roots dating back to the early 19th century, the oral history of Jean Lafitte is so rich and colorful that one might think the War of 1812 was fought last week.

We’re here because it’s one of the coastal communities most severely damaged by wind, rain and tidal surge during Hurricane Isaac.  According to Mayor Tim Kerner, “It’s the 8th major natural disaster to hit my town in the last 7 years.”  The town also suffers from the long acknowledged lack of flood protection, the loss of wetland and wildlife habitat, polluted air, and the ongoing scourge from the BP oil spill and use of the oil dispersant, Corexit.

Chris Areas

My life has been turned upside down,” says Christopher Areas, a former shrimp fisherman.  “The commercial fishing industry that was central to the economic health of the community, notice I said past tense, has been utterly devastated.   My wife who owns a seafood restaurant has been damaged again, the BP oil spill hurt her business and now I’m not sure how we’ll come back after Isaac, but we will,” confides Areas, whom we met while he was attempting to salvage his home after it stood flooded for two days with over a foot of water after Isaac.

Meanwhile, our plan is to embed ourselves here for the next six weeks alongside Cherri Foytlin and our partners at 28 Stones, a Gulf Coast based media organization developed to highlight individuals, groups and communities who are working to combat social and environmental injustices, and to connect them with national and global concerns through the use of art, music, video and written word outreach.

Collectively, our goal is to conduct an in-depth character study documenting the reasons why the residents of the Gulf Coast are considered the most resilient of all Americans.  We also want to learn why the national media refuses to cover the plight of the people here, given the wrath of natural and human-caused disasters they’ve suffered through in recent years.

The content produced in Jean Lafitte will serve as the main storyline for Storm Surge.  It’s the thread that ties three years of production, 35,000 miles of travel, and 200+ hours of interviews and background footage into three centralized themes – Survival, Resiliency and Recovery.

Where is Our Levee Protection?

Hurricane Isaac caused an unusual amount of flooding after slow crawling through southeast Louisiana for two and a half days.  While the $14.5B dollar levee system built by the US Army Corps of Engineers to protect New Orleans worked as designed, many of the parishes around the New Orleans metropolitan area saw worse flooding than they did during Hurricane Katrina.

Automated Levee Floodgate
Levee Floodgate

Since 2005, state officials have lobbied the federal government for a comprehensive plan to provide flood and hurricane protection, wetland restoration, and the construction of  an all-inclusive levee system to protect low lying areas outside of the New Orleans.

Where is Our Levee Protection?
Where is Our Levee Protection?

Christopher Areas, a resident Jean Lafitte in Jefferson Parish, explains how he breached a rock levee near his home to allow flood waters to flow back into Barataria Bayou after Hurricane Isaac.  “We had a foot of water in our house for two days, ” said Areas.

Adding insult to injury, Chris’ wife, Katie had over two feet of water inundate the seafood restaurant t she’s owned for over 30 years.  “I just paid off the SBA loan I got to renovate my restaurant after Hurricane Katrina.  I’m not sure that I’m going to rebuild this time.  I’m tired,” said Mrs. Areas.

Like many Gulf Coast residents, Area believes the storm surge from Isaac bounced off the levees and floodgates built to protect New Orleans, while sacrificing the surrounding communities.  “The water had to go somewhere and it came here,” he said.

Christopher Areas

Goose Bayou – Days 3 & 4

During our second day in Lafitte, we were invited by Mr. Roubin Maise, Jr., a former DEA Agent, and his neighbor Mr. Lindburg Santini, a shrimp fisherman, to visit Lower Lafitte and experience what it was like to live in their community in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

We spent two days living in near 100 degree heat and 100% humidity.  We ate MREs, patiently waited for ice and water delivers by the Jefferson Parish  Police Department, and for the restoration of electricity and phone service .  To pass the time we interviewed their neighbors, explored the flood and wind damage, shot a lot of video and took a ton of pictures.

Whose Got Babies?

Deborah Cavilier, a native of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, volunteers her time, talent and financial resources to help the residents on the island of Lower Lafitte get back on their feet in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. Despite having storm damage to her own home, she spent days delivering baby formula, water, ice, and MREs to people trapped by flood waters.

Goose Bayou – Days 1 & 2

The following set of photos were taken near the Goose Bayou bridge which separates the communities of Jean Lafitte and Lafitte in lower Jefferson Parish Louisiana.   The team was given exclusive access, including a boat, to enter these closed areas by the US Army National Guard, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Jefferson Parish Drainage Department.  These images were shot the Friday after Hurricane Isaac slammed into the Gulf Coast.  We witnessed a levee  breach and the installation of the worlds largest mobile water pump to drain three feet of tidal surge from the surrounding neighborhoods.