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With Focus on New Orleans, Isaac's Devastation in South Florida Worse Than People Realize

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I'm sitting here, marooned in my suburban Lake Worth home, trapped by a river in front of my house that was once Olmstead Drive.

I tried to escape to go to work Monday, but stupidly drove too far into that new body of water -- and now my car is really messed up. It starts, but the motor makes a nasty grinding noise. So I'm stuck until I can get the car fixed.

I'm still very lucky. I have electric and Internet service, my air conditioning unit and stove are working, and I am alive and well.

I'm one of thousands of South Florida victims of a storm named Isaac that didn't qualify as a hurricane with a category number, but nevertheless qualified as a "5" in terms of the havoc and devastation its destructive rains left behind.

Isaac was one of those storms that never seemed to end. Its "outer bands" keep dumping massive amounts of rain on our already saturated grounds, flooding our yards and homes and taxing drainage canals to the point where they either breached or overflowed.

The result is the same as any aftermath of a hurricane -- we are under severe duress.

But no one, except local officials and emergency personnel, is calling it what it really is -- a major disaster.

With Wellington, suburban Lake Worth, Royal Palm Beach, Loxahatchee, and other areas of western Palm Beach County under several inches of water, houses, streets, and infrastructure suffered severe water damage.

People thinking they are driving on flooded streets wound up with their cars overturned in canals, and door to door searches had to be performed to rescue trapped people.

According to state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo of Wellington, who was also stuck in his home, his office is being inundated with calls for help -- and he is answering every one of them. He told me that the local county and state emergency officials are doing a great job working day and night to deal with the devastation. After he made an urgent call to the governor's office, the National Guard was immediately ordered to the area and they continue working to assist flood victims.

"The bottom line is that if we get out of this and there's no loss of life or major injuries, that's a huge win. If everyone is okay and healthy at the end of the day, we did our job perfect," said Abruzzo. "But this is an extremely serious situation and the damage done by Isaac is way beyond the original estimates of its impact on the area."

Yet, all eyes of the nation were fixed on the storm's threat to Tampa and the GOP convention there, and its subsequent impact on New Orleans and the Gulf coast. While we know how bad it is here, someone forgot to emphasize to the rest of the country how badly we were impacted in South Florida.

The president spoke live to the nation Tuesday morning on the pending impact of Isaac as a hurricane on Louisiana and other gulf states, but no reference was made of the devastation it left behind here in South Florida. No mentions about our flooding situation and its severe damage in the mainstream media -- maybe someone forgot to tell them. We can only hope that FEMA shows up.

Maybe our experience with past hurricanes actually helped make things better this time -- it could have been far worse. FPL, which I believe is very much unappreciated for their service and the cost they charge for their power, managed to keep most of South Florida lit up and cooled off -- and improvements in infrastructure and home protection kept wind and tornado damage to a minimum.

But South Florida was not prepared well enough for the real soaking Isaac gave us.

We found out again, the hard way, about the destruction mother nature can havoc on our lives -- this time, one drop at a time.

Let's hope that important lessons will be learned from our forgotten rain event's massive destruction to South Florida neighborhoods, and that in the future, we will not have to put up with such severe water damage that we encountered from the rain bands of Isaac.

In the meantime, all I can do now is keep humming "Rain rain, go away, come back on another day," and wait for the tow truck to show up to my house.

Steven Kurlander is a communications strategist and columnist for the Sun Sentinel, FloridaVoices.com and is a blogger at HuffingtonPost.com. Visit his blog at www.stevenkurlander.com.