Sunday, December 17, 2017

Isaac leaves a mess behind

INSIDE

Images of misery

A page of photographs shows residents in Louisiana coping with the floodwaters, from a New Orleans suburb to rural Plaquemines Parish. 8A

Kind strangers

Not even Hurricane Isaac could rob a Waveland, Miss., couple of their Southern hospitality in the form of a shrimp Creole dinner offered to a stranger. 9A

weaker isaac takes deluge northward

Isaac, downgraded to a tropical depression, is expected to provide a dousing for much of the nation's midsection — from Arkansas north to Missouri and into a corner of Iowa, then east through Illinois and Indiana to Ohio — in coming days. Rainfall totals could reach up to 7 inches, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor weekly update Thursday. In Arkansas, farmers scrambled to bring in as much of their corn and rice as they could before Isaac's wind and rain arrived.

Tow truck driver killed in Miss.

A 62-year-old tow truck driver, Greg Parker, was killed overnight when a tree fell on the cab of his truck in Picayune, Miss., said Tony Bounds, a spokesman for Pearl River County's emergency operations center. "With one of those wind gusts, the tree came over and crushed him," he said.

6,000 people go to shelters

During a morning news conference Thursday in Baton Rouge, Gov. Bobby Jindal said that more than 6,000 people had registered in shelters around the state, and more than 3,000 people were taken out of St. John the Baptist Parish alone.

Times wires

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS

Isaac poured unrelenting rain Thursday, flooding areas north and south of New Orleans, forcing officials to launch speedy evacuation and rescue efforts in the face of fast-rising waters.

Even as Isaac weakened to a tropical depression on its slow trek inland, it continued to spin off life-threatening weather including storm surges, inland flooding from torrential rain and potential tornadoes. Nearly half of Louisiana electrical customers lost power and another 150,000 were out in neighboring Mississippi.

Remarkably, only one person had died as of Thursday in Louisiana, where 1,800 people died during Hurricane Katrina.

Among the havoc Thursday:

• In LaPlace, between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, officials sent scores of buses and dozens of high-water vehicles to help evacuate about 3,000 people as rising waters lapped against houses and left cars stranded. Interstate 10 was closed by floodwaters.

• Louisiana officials ordered an evacuation for some 60,000 people living in communities along the rain-swollen Tangipahoa River after warning that the Tangipahoa Dam in Mississippi was in danger of failing.

• In low-lying Plaquemines Parish, authorities intentionally breached an 18-mile levee where dozens of people were stranded in flooded coastal areas and had to be rescued.

In LaPlace, a Coast Guard helicopter hoisted a couple and their dogs from a home early Thursday after storm surge poured into their neighborhood and local authorities called for help. The couple was taken to New Orleans and reported in good condition.

"The husband and wife and their two dogs were in an area where a lot of houses washed away," said Lt. Cmdr. Jorge Porto. "They used a flashlight inside the house as a signaling device, which made all the difference in locating them effectively."

The floodwaters "were shockingly fast-rising, from what I understand from talking to people," Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said. "It caught everybody by surprise."

Isaac arrived seven years after Hurricane Katrina and passed slightly to the west of New Orleans, where the city's fortified levee system easily handled the assault.

"Unfortunately, that's not been the case for low-lying areas outside the federal system, in particular lower Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes," said U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. "Hurricane Isaac has reinforced for us once again just how vulnerable these critical areas are. We must re-engage the Corps of Engineers on this."

President Barack Obama declared federal emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi late Wednesday, allowing federal aid to be freed up for affected areas.

Louisiana's Public Service Commission said 901,000 homes and businesses around the state — about 47 percent of all customers — were without power Thursday. Utility company Entergy said that included about 157,000 in New Orleans.

New Orleans' biggest problems seemed to be downed power lines, scattered tree limbs and minor flooding. One person was reported killed, compared with 1,800 deaths from Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. And police reported few problems with looting. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Officials rushed to evacuate more than 100 nursing home residents from Plaquemines Parish, an area with a reputation for residents hunkering down to weather storms. In this hardscrabble, mostly rural parish, even the sick and elderly are hardened storm veterans.

"I don't think we had to evacuate to begin with," Romaine Dahl, 59, said Thursday as he sat in a wheelchair. "The weather was a hell of a lot worse last night than it is now. And I got an idea that after all this is said and done they're going to say everything is over with, go on back home."

Other residents in the Riverbend Nursing and Rehabilitation Center were loaded into ambulances and taken to a nearby naval station. Residents had their names and birth dates attached to their shirts.

Josephine King, 84, handled the move well, waiting in a wheelchair. "I'm feeling good," she said.

By Thursday night, Isaac had been downgraded to a tropical depression, and the Louisiana National Guard had ceased rescue operations in Plaquemines Parish, saying it felt confident it had gotten everyone out. There were no serious injuries.

The storm's center was on track to cross Arkansas today and southern Missouri tonight, spreading rain as it goes.

Forecasters expected Isaac to move farther inland over the next several days, dumping rain on drought-stricken states across the nation's midsection before finally breaking up over the weekend.

Even at its strongest, the storm was far weaker than Hurricane Katrina, which at its peak was a Category 5 and hit New Orleans as a Category 3. Isaac came ashore late Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane, with 80 mph winds near the mouth of the Mississippi River. It drove a wall of water nearly 11 feet high inland. Because Isaac's coiled bands of rain and wind were moving at only 5 mph — about the pace of a brisk walk — the threat of storm surges and flooding was expected to linger Thursday as the immense system crawled across Louisiana.

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