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New Orleans victory is bittersweet for towns flooded by Lee

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New Orleans’ upgraded levee and pump system may have kept that city safe from flooding amid Tropical Storm Lee’s drenching, but the victory was bittersweet for residents of nearby communities.

Timothy Kerner, mayor of the town of Jean Lafitte, was forced to watch as winds pushed Bayou Barataria about 5 feet higher than normal -- with devastating results. Jean Lafitte, along with Crown Point and Barataria, were under water on Sunday, as much as 6 to 7 feet deep in some places.

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The mayor spent the day fighting to keep the dry parts of his town dry.

“Oh my God, man,” he said. “We’re actually building little rock levees, sandbagging -- so many doggone things we’re trying to do.”

The three communities, which are home to about 8,000 people, lie just beyond metro New Orleans’ flood-control system. That system, after failing spectacularly during Hurricane Katrina, received a massive, multibillion-dollar upgrade.

But not only did it fail to help surrounding communities, it was being blamed -- at least among some local residents -- for making matters worse.

Kerner said a massive pump and floodwall installed north of his area had exacerbated flooding. He said federal authorities had not heeded locals’ requests to protect his area with levees.

“They haven’t spent a dime on us,” he said. “It’s a shame when the country leaves you out of a system and then says it can’t protect you.”

-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta

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-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta


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