BRAITHWAITE, La. - As the water drains out of Plaquemines Parish, residents are beginning to see the true scope of the damage and how much work lies ahead of them.
A drive down Highway 39 in Braithwaite is shocking to most. Cars have to dodge houses in the road. The power of the Hurricane Isaac storm surge is breath-taking.
Isaac may have been only a Category 1, but the raging waters the hurricane pushed into eastern Plaquemines Parish picked up homes, cars and untold tons of debris. It flung buildings across the highway and up onto the Mississippi River levee.
Resident John Barthelemy didn't evacuate until the water started rising and was shocked by what he saw.
"The water was almost topping the Mississippi River levee. That's how bad it was. And the water was flowing, and houses was moving. It was unbelievable. It's another Katrina," said Barthelemy.
Barthelemy said they're tough people in Plaquemines Parish and they'll be back.
"People love the people here, and they love their community, and I think that's the bottom line. No matter what happens, we're always considered to be like the bird, the Phoenix. We will prevail and rise from the ashes," he said.
Barthelemy is principal at Phoenix High School, one of five in the hardest hit areas of Plaquemines that re-opened Monday, and he knew the first challenge he faced was to help students deal with hurricane stress and fear.
"First thing we need to do is have a conference with our students, have them in the gym, and talk to them about the disaster that took place, and the impact it had on each of their families, and try to stabilize that and get them to believe and have faith that things are going to get better," he said.
The other Plaquemines Schools that opened Monday include South Plaquemines high and elementary schools, Boothville-Venice and the Plaquemines Learning Center.