Obama offers reassurance to hurricane victims

Power has not been restored for tens of thousands

President Obama walked past debris on the sidewalks as he toured the Bridgewood neighborhood in La Place, La.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated press
President Obama walked past debris on the sidewalks as he toured the Bridgewood neighborhood in La Place, La.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama consoled victims of Hurricane Isaac along the Gulf Coast on Monday and said officials from all levels of government will do everything they can to assess the damage from the storm and figure out how to help.

At times like these, ‘‘nobody’s a Democrat or a Republican, we’re all just Americans looking out for one another,’’ the president said after inspecting damage inflicted by the storm and hugging some of its victims.

He was flanked by local and state officials of both parties as he spoke.


Obama’s trip to La Place, La., was a televised interlude in the rough and tumble of the political campaign, four days after Mitt Romney accepted his party’s presidential nomination at the GOP Convention in Tampa, Fla., and three days before the president is nominated by Democratic delegates in Charlotte.

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Obama walked from house to house along a block lined with ruined furniture and belongings. Romney traveled to Louisiana last week to demonstrate his concern for victims of the storm.

Tens of thousands of customers remained in the dark Monday in Louisiana and Mississippi, nearly a week after Isaac inundated the Gulf Coast with a deluge that still has some low-lying areas under water.

Most of those without electricity were in Louisiana, where utilities reported more than 100,000 people without power. Thousands also were without power in Mississippi and Arkansas.

In Louisiana, many evacuees remained at shelters or bunked with friends or relatives.


‘‘My family is split up,’’ said Angela Serpas, from severely flooded Braithwaite in Plaquemines Parish.

Serpas and her daughter were staying with her in-laws while her husband and son were staying in Belle Chasse, a suburban area of the parish.

‘‘This is the second time we’ve lost our home. We lost it in Katrina,’’ she said.

In the flooded neighborhood he visited, Obama promised local residents, ‘‘We are getting on the case very quickly about figuring out what exactly happened here, what can we do to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.’’

He said his administration would expedite decisions about any infrastructure improvements that are needed to protect people and property.


The federal government spent more than $10 billion to strengthen the levee system around New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.

Obama noted that last week’s flooding was in a different region, leaving open the question of what the government might do to prevent a recurrence.

Inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are in Louisiana trying to get a handle on losses. Residents can apply for grants to get help with home repairs and temporary housing, among other expenses.

Obama’s homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, visited Bay St. Louis, Miss., and Slidell, La., on Sunday.

‘‘We are part of a team to make sure Hurricane Isaac is put to rest as soon as we can for all those affected,’’ Napolitano said. ‘‘In the meantime, please know all of us are thinking about those in Louisiana who are without their homes or without their businesses.’’

At least seven people were killed in the storm — five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.

In St. John the Baptist Parish, residents spent Labor Day dragging waterlogged carpet and furniture to the curb and using bleach and water to clean to prevent mold.

LaPlace resident Barbara Melton swept mud and debris from her home, which was at one point under 2 feet of water. The garbage, debris, and standing water — combined with heat reaching the 90s — created a terrible stench.

‘‘It’s hot, it stinks, but I’m trying to get all this mud and stuff out of my house,’’ she said.

Melton was grateful for the president’s visit. ‘‘I think it’s awesome to have a president that cares and wants to come out and see what he can do,’’ said Melton, 60.

A few houses away, Ed Powell said Isaac was enough to make him question whether to stay.

‘‘I know Louisiana’s a gambling state, but we don’t want to gamble in this method because when you lose this way, you lose a lot.’’

Powell said even if Obama comes up with a plan or solution to the flooding problem in his area, time is not on the residents’ side.

‘‘Even if they narrow down what the problem is and begin to resolve the problem, it usually takes years. And between now and whenever, a lot of things can happen,’’ Powell said.