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Floodwater soaks LA town

BY RACHEL CLARK | SLIDELL, La. | September 27, 2002

"Right now, we're mainly trying to wait for the water to go down and get in to help people."

—Rev. Jim Baham

The weather was beautiful in Slidell, La., Friday morning.

"It's beautiful," said Sandy Bradley, director of communications for St. Luke's The Evangelist Catholic Community Church. "There's a blue sky -- you'd never know anything came through here."

But Tropical Storm Isidore did come through the area. And by Friday morning, it had flooded neighborhoods on the outskirts of Slidell. Some residents measured the storm's impact in terms of destruction. Others felt lucky that Isidore wasn't as damaging as they had prepared for.

The Rev. Jim Baham of First Baptist Church in Slidell spent Friday morning on the phone, asking church members if they needed help or were available to help the dozen or so members trapped in flooded homes.

"Right now, we're mainly trying to wait for the water to go down and get in to help people," he said.

Some of the flooding occurred when Lake Pontchartrain overflowed. The lake is connected to the Gulf, and homes around those areas were swamped with water.

"This was more caused from a storm surge from the winds and the storm churning up the Gulf and lake," said Ann Bowser of World Harvest Church in Slidell. "The lake is very shallow so it spills over."

Even more flooding occured when a levy broke.

"It flooded a lot of neighborhoods, so our canteens are serving n that area," said Col. Gene Slusher, disaster services coordinator for the Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi division of The Salvation Army.

According to Bowser, about 90 percent of the town is undamaged.

"But there's certain areas of town -- around the outskirts -- that are just inundated with water," she said. "To be honest, I really didn't expect this storm to cause as much flooding as it did."

Bradley, however, was grateful that Isidore left so little water to flood the town.

"There are a few low-lying areas where we have a problem with flooding, but overall the community is fine," she said.

Her church's Good Samaritan program - an ongoing ministry that helps the poor and needy - may help flood survivors.

"I'm sure they would be of some assistance here," she said.

The Community Christian Concern group in Slidell -- which also aids needful residents by providing food, shelter and water -- also downplayed Isidore's impact.

"It wasn't what we thought it was going to be, and we thank God for that," said President Gene Wellington. "Most people were prepared for a category three or four, but we only got a storm."

The group provided shelter for one family before the storm hit, and has had only one call from people seeking assistance.

Although there were mixed reactions to Isidore, the storm brought back memories of a much worse flood event in 1995.

"There was a lot of what they called 'hundred-year-type flooding' here," Bradley said. "That affected more people than this storm did."

During that event, a large amount of rain that fell in a short period of time caused massive flooding to sweep across the city.

"A very large percentage of our whole city was flooded from intense rain," Baham said. "That was our worst flood. At that point we opened up our church as a shelter and did a lot of cleaning and rebuilding in the community."

Bowser said those floods "killed the town," and that the damage the storm left on Slidell was "far worse," but that individuals and disaster response groups were helping Isidore's survivors clean up their homes.

"It's kind of sad because in one way, you're here now doing your normal thing and you're thinking about the people who are getting water out of their homes," she said.

According to Bradley, the community will survive.

"We're holding up fine," she said.

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