Storm leaves Louisiana in muck, misery

Saturday, October 5, 2002

POINTE AUX CHENES, La. -- Tropical Storm Lili spun out of Louisiana early Friday, leaving behind a trail of muck and misery as residents contended with widespread wind and flood damage and the prospect of days without power.

Lili lost strength Thursday after coming ashore at Marsh Island as a Category 2 hurricane packing 100 mph winds. Officials breathed a collective sigh of relief that there were only a handful of injuries and no reported storm-related deaths along the Gulf Coast.

Before it inexplicably weakened and hit land, Lili was a Category 4 hurricane packing terrifying 145-mph winds.

Along the coast, ripped-up roofing, felled trees, downed power lines, mud and debris littered a landscape already sodden by Tropical Storm Isidore just one week earlier.

Water 4 to 8 feet deep swept and swirled across roads and into numerous houses in Pointe Aux Chenes. At times, the driver of a National Guard truck that was used to rescue residents had no idea where the road actually ran. Guardsmen had to get out and walk through waist-deep water to guide him through.

Many houses in the area were built above ground on pylons or pier foundations that minimized damage, but other homes were hit hard.

"The houses that are on concrete slabs, they're going to be completely lost," Lt. Jason Coulter said. "It's a mess."

A combination of storm surges and rain caused levees to fail in Montegut and Franklin, where flood waters threatened hundreds of homes.

"I'd say right now at least 75 percent of the town got water in it," said Spencer Rhodes, fire chief in Montegut, a town of 4,000 about 40 miles southwest of New Orleans.

Rescue crews in big National Guard trucks evacuated 500 to 600 Montegut residents who had failed to heed calls to evacuate.

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