WAVELAND, Miss. — After days of whipping wind and heavy rain, life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is slowly returning to normal as residents return home and begin cleaning up from Hurricane Isaac.
Flooding continued Friday on rivers in south Mississippi. On the Jourdan River in Kiln, several feet of swiftly moving water surrounded houses built on stilts.
At one house, several people tried to secure a floating pier. A car nearby was submerged.
Further south, on Twin Lake, where people anchor their boats during storms, several men tried to free a grounded yacht. A house boat was demolished.
Along the bay in Hancock County, people were cleaning up debris left by receding water and boats had washed into several residents’ yards.
Across much of central and south Mississippi, local officials are transitioning from response to recovery.
Isaac, now a tropical depression, dropped more than 12 inches of rain in some places in Mississippi with sustained wind of about 40 mph and storm surge of 6 to 8 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
Emergency management officials said the concern now is that because of all the rain, rivers could crest at their highest levels in years. Extensive flooding also was preventing some responders from beginning damage assessments.
The National Weather Service has issued flood and flash flood watches and warnings to parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
While those are major concerns, in Bay St. Louis, Sammy and Terri Vance just want to keep their family together. The couple, who spent Friday pulling installation and sheet rock out of their flooded home, said they are worried about losing the four foster children they’ve had since January.
The foster children are siblings — three girls and a boy ages 4 to 14. The Vances also have a 22-year-old daughter who is hearing impaired and a 3-year-old son who live in the house.
“We have no place to go. How can we provide a place for somebody else,” Terri Vane said.
The family had been staying at a local church during Isaac. The family was to move out of the church Saturday.
“We’ll be homeless when we have to leave the church,” Terri Vance said.
Terri Vance said her state Department of Human Services case work had told the family she is not sure how officials with deal with the foster children. She said DHS could help the family with some money for the foster children until they get back on their feet.
Sammy Vance, who is in the painting and sheet rock business, said he’s not sure what to do.
“They’ve gotten attached to us and we’re attached to them, They’re good kids. This is just a shame,” he said.
In Hancock County, county Supervisor David Yarborough said Friday that two of three shelters in the county have been shut down and residents were beginning to go home.
Some roads were still closed, but flood waters were receding.
“It’s time to start cleaning up,” said Waveland resident Jeff Delle, who was flooded out of his neighborhood on Wednesday.
Hancock County Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Adams said it was still too early to assess damages because there was still flooding in some neighborhoods near rivers from heavy rain dumped north of the coast.
Allen Barrilleaux, 28, spent Friday morning draining water from the engine of his flooded truck not far from a river in Hancock County.
He was going to ride out the storm with his wife, a friend, and 5-week-old son in their house, which is on stilts, but called for help Wednesday when the water crept close to the house and large pine trees from a nearby mill swirled in the water. They were evacuated safely by boat.
“He slept the whole damn way,” Barrilleaux said of his son, Mason.
Water never got into the home and it never lost power. He knows the power didn’t go out because he froze a glass of water, put a penny on top of the ice and put it back in the freezer.
“We could have rode it out easy but it’s better safe than sorry,” he said.
Watching for ant beds as he walked around his green Chevy, Barrilleaux said hurricanes are part of life here, but disasters can hit anywhere, whether it’s tornadoes in the Midwest or a volcano in Hawaii.
“Life’s cruel,” Barrilleaux said, gripping a wrench with a greasy hand. Then he smiled.
“We’re like that big ole ant hill and a guy with a lawnmower just keeps mowing us down.”