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Hurricane Isaac came ashore in August 2012, eerily following the path of Hurricane Katrina seven years prior. But this one was in no hurry to leave; affected communities endured days of high winds and rain. The stalled system meant that Isaac left behind far more damage than is typical with a Category 1 storm.
In Louisiana, some 59,000 homes were damaged. In St. John the Baptist Parish, one in four homes sustained damages in excess of $20,000, and losses to the sugar cane crop topped $100 million. In Mississippi, approximately 3,000 homes were damaged by flood waters.
Despite its impact, Isaac proved that lessons had been learned since Hurricane Katrina. This time, careful planning and preparation saved lives and aggravation, and mitigated the costs of recovery. Well in advance of the storm, communities—this time acting in coordination—began implementing evacuation plans they had created many months before. Organizations such as the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation made plans to open up disaster recovery funds established in advance of the hurricane’s landfall. Before the rain had even begun, an emphasis on returning evacuees to their homes and helping them rebuild had emerged.
Still, for those affected along the U.S. Gulf Coast and the island nation of Haiti, recovery was a lengthy process.
Isaac hit Haiti on Aug. 25 as a tropical storm, grazed the Florida Keys, and then made landfall in the Gulf Coast on Aug. 28 as a Category 1 hurricane. It moved slowly across Louisiana and further north. Along the way, Isaac impacted numerous communities with prolonged, heavy rainfall; severe flooding; and high damaging winds. States most affected include Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, as well as Texas, where evacuees sought shelter.
Haiti, meanwhile, remains severely challenged. Still attempting to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, almost 400,000 people were living in tents and makeshift shelters at the time Isaac made landfall. The storm led to at least 24 fatalities in Haiti, as well as five in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
Update: October 26, 2012
The New Orleans Disaster Recovery Center has closed. Three additional centers remained open in New Orleans branch libraries.
Update: Sept. 28, 2012
St. Bernard Project, working to rebuild the homes and lives of those affected by Hurricane Katrina, has been conducting damage and needs assessment in the greater New Orleans area following Isaac. Even without Isaac, SBP still had much rebuilding work to do, with more than 130 families on a waiting list. But with catastrophic flooding from Isaac, the needs have multiplied.
SBP is one of three local disaster recovery organizations teaming with the St. John United Way to work in the area under the banner of the River Parishes Recovery Alliance. Also included: the Beacon of Hope Resource Center and the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. The alliance specifically targets homeowners who do not have the resources to fix flood damage even after flood insurance, FEMA grants, and SBA loans. Learn more here.
Update: Sept. 15, 2012
In Louisiana, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; NWS, the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency remain actively involved in assisting impacted communities. All 64 parishes have declared a state of emergency, and the Office of Emergency Management is working with FEMA on individual and public assistance determinations. Feed the Children has delivered more than 80,000 pounds of food to several areas of the state with another 78,000 right behind. Second Harvest Food Bank has delivered roughly 710,000 pounds of food and cleaning supplies, but are now running low. United Methodist Church Disaster Relief has distributed 5,200 cleaning kits and 22,000 health kits. American Red Cross, in addition to providing shelter, meals, and snacks, is working with parishes to identify needs due to damaged homes, lack of power, homelessness, and lack of access to residences. Also, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has set up a Disaster Relief Fund for those wishing to assist financially.
In Haiti, international aid has poured in. Organizations such as the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), Heart to Heart International, and ActionAid have offered assistance in various ways.