Gerald Herbert, Associated Press
BELLE CHASE, La. — Floodwaters from Isaac receded, power came on and businesses opened Friday ahead of the holiday weekend, the beginning of what is certain to be a slow recovery for Louisiana.
Newly nominated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited flood-ravaged communities, and President Barack Obama said he would arrive Monday, appearances this part of the country is all too familiar with after Katrina and the Gulf oil spill.
Meanwhile, the leftovers from the storm pushed into the drought-stricken Midwest, knocking out power to thousands of people in Arkansas. At least seven people were killed in the storm in Mississippi and Louisiana.
In Lafitte, a fishing village south of New Orleans, Romney saw soaked homes, roads covered with brown water and debris-littered neighborhoods. The GOP-friendly community is outside of the federal levee system that spared New Orleans and it lies on an exposed stretch of land near the Gulf.
Romney met along a highway with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and they talked about challenges facing the stricken area, which relies on fishing for its livelihood. He also spoke to town officials and emergency workers.
"I'm here to learn and obviously to draw some attention to what's going on here," Romney told the governor. "So that people around the country know that people down here need help."
At one point, Romney and Jindal talked to a man in waders and a straw hat holding a handwritten, neon- yellow "Mitt Is Our Man" sign. The man complained about the area's lack of protection from flooding.
The town is located just outside a region that is protected by levees and other flood protection measures built after Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005. The Army Corps of Engineers spent about $13 billion on the system.
Richard Riley rode out the storm in his home. Even though the water was receding Friday, he decided it was time to leave. He walked about a mile and found rescuers, who took him to family members.
Riley, a Republican, said he favored building new flood protection for the area, especially after Isaac brought in a surprising amount of water. He said he wanted Obama to help make that happen.
"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.
Crown Point, Lafitte and other nearby settlements that jut inland from the Gulf are accustomed to high water driven by hurricanes. But Isaac, a relatively weak storm by the standards of Betsy and Katrina, pushed in much more water than expected when it stalled after making landfall.
To the east, officials pumped and released water from a reservoir, easing the pressure behind an Isaac-stressed dam in Mississippi on the Louisiana border. The threat for the earthen dam on Lake Tangipahoa prompted evacuations in small towns and rural areas.
In New Orleans, at the Magnolia Discount Gas Station in the 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. Stations that did have power to pump had long lines.
There were other signs of life getting back to some sense of normalcy. The Mississippi River opened to limited traffic, the French Quarter rekindled its lively spirit and restaurants reopened.
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. More than 5,000 people were still staying in shelters.
The remainder of the storm was still a powerful system carrying 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.
Labor Day plans were already taking a hit.
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