Misery in Louisiana as Isaac flooding leaves power out

By Michael Kunzelman

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Aug. 31 2012 9:03 a.m. MDT

The exits off of I-10 in Slidell, La. are flooded in the aftermath of Isaac on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. Isaac hovered over Louisiana for a third day Thursday, shedding more than a foot of additional rain that forced authorities to hurriedly evacuate areas ahead of the storm and rescue hundreds of people who could not escape as the rapidly rising waters swallowed entire neighborhoods.

The Times-Picayune, Michael Democker, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Isaac sloshed northwards into the central U.S. on Friday after flooding stretches of Louisiana 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.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was headed to Louisiana to tour the damage. Romney scheduled a last-minute visit Friday to Lafitte, La., with Gov. Bobby Jindal.

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.

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 five deaths were reported in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The latest 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. Their names were not immediately released.

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.

Lucien Chopin, 29, was last to leave his house, waiting until his wife and three kids, ages 7, 5 and 1 were safely away.

He was finally joining them late Thursday, hoping they would find a shelter.

His van was underwater and water flowed waist-high in the house he'd rented for eight months.

"It's like, everything is down the drain. I lost everything. I've gotta start all over."

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