NEW ORLEANS, La. - As Isaac made its way through Louisiana, hundreds of people were grappling with the loss of their homes.
Billions of dollars spent to upgrade the federal levee system that protects New Orleans held strong, but areas outside that protection buckled under the weight of a more than 12-feet tall storm surge on Wednesday.
"I didn't expect for it to be like this, I thought we was going to have just a little bit of rain squall," said Danny Mason, a rescued Isaac victim.
Mason was one of 70 people rescued from the town of Braithwaite in southern Plaquemines Parish. Flood waters topped a parish levee and inundated the entire town. Firefighters were seen cutting holes in roofs and breaking second-story windows to rescue those trapped in flood waters that reached their roofs.
"I went into the attic, luckily I brought a chainsaw, and cut a hole in the attic, climbed out, made some calls and somebody came and got me," said Clyde Jones, who spent three hours on his roof waiting for rescue boats.
Firefighters, sheriff's deputies and National Guard troops also helped rescue pets and wild animals. The entire town was under a mandatory evacuation but many chose to stay in their homes despite the warning from state and local officials.
"We never, ever thought it would be this bad," said Wade Lobell, who also lost his home. "I don't have any insurance."
Parish President Billy Nungesser said he was worried the levees on the east bank would not withstand Isaac's surge. Nungesser said the parish was in the process of working to heighten the 18-mile stretch of levee that protects southern Plaquemines Parish, but Isaac rolled ashore before the work was complete.
"20-plus-feet that rolled through this parish," said Nungesser. "This wasn't supposed to be Katrina, it's turning out for the east bank as bad, if not worse."
Canals and neighborhood streets in New Orleans Parish were also pushed to capacity.
"How many times are we going to have to go through this, I mean we know how to get rid of water," said Rachel Reitan, whose home came precariously close to flooding in the English Turn subdivision.
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