Sifting through the damage in Isaac's wake

(CBS News) BRAITHWAITE, La. - The storm clouds cleared over the Gulf Coast Friday and the full impact of Hurricane Isaac is becoming clear. The first hurricane to hit the U.S. this season left at least five people dead. More than 20 inches of rain combined with the storm surge to leave whole neighborhoods under water.

The power is still out for more than half a million homes and businesses. And the storm damage could top $2 billion. We spoke with some people who may have lost nearly everything.

For the first time Friday, we were able to look from the air at the abandoned neighborhoods in Plaquemines Parish, swamped by five feet of Isaac's storm surge. Crews have begun cutting as many as 10 holes in its levees east and west banks to help drain the water.

And in Braithwaite, nine miles south of New Orleans, residents are frustrated just as they were after Hurricane Katrina.

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A flood wall as high as 35 feet built after Katrina protects New Orleans. And it worked -- for the city. But the new flood wall stopped short of Braithwaite and its 500 residents.

"The communities that suffered the flooding are outside of the federal protection system," said Timothy Doody, president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority. "Those communities oftentimes build their own levee systems."

Isaac's storm surge hit the new flood wall around St. Bernard Parish and had no place to go but over the 12-foot levee that protects Braithwaite.

"Yeah, we were the expendables," said Larry Bartron, who fled his Braithwaite home as Isaac stormed ashore Tuesday night .

He agreed that the new engineering to protect New Orleans may have saved folks there, but it also cost him.

"There's no doubt," he said."The storm, the way it worked, the way it stalled out, nobody could predict that. But you just sit there counterclockwise throwing water up against a wall, it won't let it pass. it's got to build up. An engineer will tell you that.

Bartron's like many people in Braithwaite, driven from their homes when water rushed over a levee on Wednesday. He lost one home to Katrina and suspects he has lost another one to Isaac.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.

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