Misery in La. as Isaac flooding leaves power out

Associated Press Modified: August 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm •  Published: August 31, 2012
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Isaac sloshed north into the central U.S. on Friday after flooding stretches of Louisiana and Mississippi and knocking out power, leaving entire water-logged neighborhoods without lights, air conditioning or clean water.

It will be a few days before the soupy brown water recedes and people forced out of flooded neighborhoods can return home.

And the damage may not be done. Officials were pumping water from a reservoir to ease the pressure behind an Isaac-stressed dam in Mississippi on the Louisiana border. In Arkansas, power lines were downed and trees knocked over as Isaac moved into the state.

The earthen dam on Lake Tangipahoa could unleash a 17-foot flood crest downstream in Louisiana if it were to give way, which prompted evacuations in small towns and rural areas Thursday. Officials released extra water through the dam and were considering punching a hole in it to lower the rain-swollen reservoir.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday that the Tangipahoa River crested Thursday night and was expected to go down by 2 feet Saturday. He said Mississippi's work to alleviate pressure on the dam appeared to be working.

"So far, operations seem to be proceeding as expected, and they seem to be working," Jindal said.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was headed to Louisiana to tour the damage. Romney scheduled a last-minute visit Friday to Lafitte, La., with Jindal. Lafitte was the site of rescue efforts when Isaac's tidal surge pushed in through the night Wednesday and into Thursday.

Shortly after Romney said he would visit Louisiana, White House spokesman Jay Carney announced that President Barack Obama would visit the state Monday to examine water and wind damage from Isaac.

In the Republican stronghold of Jefferson Parish, Romney could expect a friendly reception. One Republican, Mike Townsend, 47, said he was curious what Romney will say about Isaac and approaches to protecting the area.

"I like his business sense," Townsend said.

In Lafitte, Richard Riley, 45, was pleased that Obama was coming to Louisiana.

"He needs to see the devastation and allocate the money that's needed to build new levees or do whatever is needed to protect us," Riley said.

New Orleans, spared any major damage, lifted its curfew and returned to its usual liveliness, although it was dampened by heavy humidity.

"I have a battery-operated fan. This is the only thing keeping me going," said Rhyn Pate, a food services worker who sat under the eaves of a porch with other renters, making the best of the circumstances. "And a fly swatter to keep the bugs off me — and the most important thing, insect repellent."

The heat was getting to Marguerite Boudreaux, 85, in Gretna, a suburb of New Orleans.

"I have a daughter who is an invalid and then my husband is 90 years old, so he's slowing down a lot," she said, red in the face as she stood in the doorway of her house, damp and musky from the lack of air conditioning.

Drivers patrolled streets looking for gas and faced long waits at stations that had power Friday. Some stations were out of gas, but at others clerks said they had gas but no power to pump it.

At the Magnolia Discount Gas Station in New Orleans' Carrollton neighborhood, employee Gadeaon Fentessa said up to 50 drivers an hour were pulling in, hopeful they could pump. He had the gas, but no power.

Isaac dumped as much as 16 inches of rain in some areas, and about 500 people had to be rescued by boat or high-water vehicles.

The remainder of the storm was still a powerful system packing rain and the threat of flash flooding as it headed across Arkansas into Missouri and then up the Ohio River valley over the weekend, the National Weather Service said.

At least six deaths were reported in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Two victims, a man and a woman, were discovered late Thursday in a home in the hard-hit town of Braithwaite, south of New Orleans. Authorities said deputies went to search for the couple after someone reported they had apparently not escaped the flooding.

A 75-year-old Slidell man apparently drowned when his SUV ran off a flooded interstate on-ramp and plunged into a ditch where the water was about 9 feet deep Thursday evening, Louisiana State Police said.

An unidentified man died in a restaurant blaze in Gretna that firefighters could not control because of Isaac's strong winds Wednesday. Another man died falling from a tree during the storm and a tow truck driver in Mississippi was killed when a tree crushed the cab of his truck.

On Grand Isle, a barrier island on the Gulf, the town pumped away water. Sections of the only road to town had washed out.

On a street turned river in Reserve, on the east bank of the Mississippi River, two young men ferried their neighbors to the highway in a johnboat, using boards as paddles.