PEARLINGTON, Miss. — At least 75 people were rescued from Isaac’s flooding Wednesday in Hancock County, including an 88-year-old man who had a stroke as the storm dumped heavy rains on his isolated neighborhood in Pearlington, near the Louisiana state line.
The stroke victim was the last person brought out of the neighborhood about 7:30 p.m. CDT, and Mississippi National Guard 1st Sgt. William Maddox said the man’s house is about six miles off the main thoroughfare, U.S. Highway 90. Rescuers spent hours trying to reach him, attempting with several vehicles. A paramedic waded through chest-deep water to get to the house, and then guided a large military truck to the man.
Maddox said the man appeared to be in stable condition and was taken care of by paramedics at the scene. It was not immediately clear whether the man would be taken to a hospital.
With a steady rain falling, wildlife officers used small motorboats to rescue at least two dozen people in Pearlington, including several members of an extended family. More than a dozen National Guard soldiers also helped with the rescues, as did ambulance crews and other emergency responders.
One of those plucked from a rural neighborhood that had become a lake was 63-year-old Dianne Burton. She told The Associated Press that she and members of her extended family didn’t leave before Isaac because they didn’t expect so much water. She has lived there 46 years and said the only other time the area flooded was during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Everything is under water. We picked up the furniture and stuff, as much as we could. I can’t believe it. The road and everything was dry yesterday,” Burton said after officers deposited her, her 82-year-old mother, her 46-year-old disabled daughter and two grandchildren, ages 10 and 12, safely on dry land.
Those rescued were put onto school buses and were taken to shelters on higher ground.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday afternoon that officers from the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks had rescued at least 58 people in Hancock County, which borders Louisiana. The rescue of Burton, her relatives and at least 20 other people was happening at the same time Bryant was doing a press briefing in Gulfport, and his initial figures didn’t include them.
Isaac was a hurricane when it moved ashore Tuesday night and was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday. The slow-moving storm dumped heavy rains in Mississippi and Louisiana, including in low-lying areas like Pearlington, which nestles against the Pearl River.
Officials in all three Mississippi coastal counties ordered mandatory evacuations of low-lying areas while Isaac was still out in the Gulf of Mexico. Burton said she was unaware of the orders.
She lives in a ground-level home, and her brother lives in a similar home nearby. She said when water inside their houses was about four feet deep, they went to their mother’s house, which is built on stilts.
When rescuers arrived in boats, Burton said the family left a dog and a cat inside her mother’s house, and they left their chickens on her mother’s front porch with the hope that water wouldn’t rise high enough to float them away.
“The grandkids were a little nervous because they were worried about the animals,” Burton said.
Burton said she is grateful to those who rescued her and her family.
“We thank them for coming,” Burton said. “We appreciate it.”