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Evacuees wait to see Gustav's damage

New Orleans a ghost town as Gustav hits
September 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Gustav is now a Tropical depression and it continues to lose steam on its way inland, but officials warn that the danger isn't over yet.Eight deaths in the U.S. are now blamed on the storm, and Gustav has caused a fair amount of damage across the gulf coast region.

Slideshow: Check out photos from Hurricane Gustav
Video: Watch Carlos Granda's report from Beaumont, Texas
Video: Watch Leslie Miller's report from New Orleans, La.

In northern Louisiana and northern Texas, Gustav is still dropping a lot of rain.

Meanwhile, the 2 million residents who have been evacuated are just watching and waiting, worried about what might happen next.

Hurricane Gustav came ashore 70 miles west of New Orleans. It was no Katrina, but it still packed a punch.

The storm surge swelled the Mississippi River, and while water flowed over flood walls, no breaches were reported.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said he feels really good about the city's improved levee system.

"Hopefully we will have everything in order, where we can, later on this week, we can have our citizens, to start to come back into the city," said Nagin.

Gustav made a mess of Louisiana, and until it is at least partially cleaned up and the power turned back on, evacuated residents are being told to stay out.

"It'll be a few days, and some of this stuff could fall together pretty quickly, depends on the nature of the damage. Sometimes you can't tell the extent of your damage until you have the system back operating, and the key issue right now is locating a generator that can run the water plant," said Morgan City Mayor Tim Matte. "Once we do that, we'll fill the tanks, we'll see where our water leaks are, we'll rectify that situation, and then perhaps we're there," he said.

In Morgan City, Louisiana, power lines and structures were also damaged. For many of the evacuees, that means another couple of days stuck in hotels and shelters miles from home.

"I want to cry every time I think about that I'm here by myself," said one evacuee.

The waiting is hard. Residents are worried about what they'll find when they do get home, especially victims of Katrina.

"I lost everything," said evacuee Gertrude Hebert of her Katrina experience. "Lost my home, lost everything. That's why I'm frightened now," she said.

In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, those who were told they could stay before Gustav hit are being told to evacuate. Heavy rains are causing local rivers to overflow their banks and threaten homes.

"This is kind of a secondary impact from the storm," said Kevin Davis, St. Tammany Parish resident. "As you know, the rain has stopped, but the wind pushed the water in. And what's happening in Mississippi and north of us in Louisiana, that water all flows through here."

"I went about 100 miles down I-10 east to Pascagoula," said Lynn Morehouse, St. Tammany Parish resident.

Morehouse got out before the storm hit, but he came back. He waded through flooded streets to check his home.

"It is very concerning. When I talked to one of my neighbors by phone yesterday, he said that everything was looking pretty good. But today, evidently, as it kept raining, some of them have sustained some water damage for sure," said Morehouse.

Officials say evacuees will be allowed to return in waves. The first wave will be necessary employees, then businesses and, finally, residents.

On Tuesday, the Stern family, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, packed up their belongings and headed home from Beaumont, Texas.

"We didn't have that much damage, it seems like on the news," said Rosemary Stern. "So, we're going to go back today and try to get in and regroup."

"It's difficult because we don't know what kind of condition the house is in or what damage we have or anything," said evacuee Lucy Griffin.

Lucy is not able to return home just yet. She left Abbeville, Louisiana on Sunday and will have to remain in Beaumont for a few more days.

"If we return home, we're on our own. There's a dusk to dawn curfew. There are no businesses open. And, the whole parish ... there's no electricity ... no nothing," said Lucy.

Thousands of other evacuees are in shelters and hotels, wondering what may be waiting for them back at home.

"It's difficult not knowing what you're coming back home to. But, just going to hope and pray for the best," said evacuee Whitney Coleman.

Convoys headed out to areas of Louisiana on Tuesday, hoping to help restore power. Crewmembers expect to find a mess.

"Basically chaos. We expect holes in the road, wires down, we'll see poles on top of homes, cars," said power-line repairman Johnny Teran.

Teran says they will work 18 to 20 hours a day.

"It makes you feel good when you turn on people's power. It really makes us feel good. Like I said, we take pride in what we do," said Teran.

There are more than 1 million people without power. This is reportedly causing a problem for facilities like nursing homes.

An estimated 10,000 workers are being called in from 26 states to help restore power in the Louisiana area.

Officials say they hope to have power back up by the end of the week. Eyewitness News Reporters Carlos Granda and Leslie Miller contributed to this report.

 

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