Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Recovery starts in wake of Isaac

An intentional levy breach was created to alleviate trapped floodwater in the community of Braithwaite, Louisiana (AP/Gerald Herbert)
A man walks through floodwater and heavy rain in Lafitte, Louisiana (AP/Erik Schelzig)
Homes in LaPlace, Louisiana are covered in floodwaters in the aftermath of Isaac (AP/The Times-Picayune, Michael Democker)

Floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac have receded, power came on and businesses opened ahead of the US Labour Day holiday weekend, the beginning of what is certain to be a slow recovery for Louisiana.

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 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.

Farther south, the storm victims included a man and a woman discovered late last night in a home in the hard-hit town of Braithwaite, south of New Orleans; a man killed in a restaurant fire; two men killed in separate car accidents and a man who fell from a tree.

In Louisiana alone, the storm cut power to 901,000 homes and businesses, or about 47% of the state, but that was down to 617,000. At least six people were killed in the storm in Mississippi and Louisiana.

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 after it stalled after 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.

More than 15,000 utility workers began restoring power to customers in Louisiana and Mississippi, but officials said it would be a couple of days before power was fully restored.

Crews intentionally breached a levee that was strained by Isaac's floodwaters in southeast Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish, which is outside the federal levee system. Aerial images showed the water gushing out.

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