NEW ORLEANS – Isaac pushed north and out of Louisiana on Friday, leaving behind swaths of misery – flooded neighborhoods, power outages in humid heat, thousands seeking help in emergency shelters and thousands more lined up for post-storm necessities.
Officials raised the hurricane-related death toll to seven, five in Louisiana, two in Mississippi, and residents in another outlying parish were advised to evacuate because of flooding from a nearby lake.
Yet there were signs of a slow recovery as businesses began to open and cleanup continued.
By today officials had hoped to restore power to all but 10 percent of households in the state, down from 26 percent late Friday. And about 4,368 people stayed overnight in shelters Friday across the state, about 1,700 less than Thursday.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney toured flooded areas to the south of New Orleans in Jefferson Parish on Friday, and President Barack Obama is expected to arrive Monday.
While New Orleans’ newly bolstered, $10 billion levee system stood up to its first post-Katrina test, Hurricane Isaac tore into another weakness: the lack of improvements to flood control systems in outlying parishes, where hundreds of homes have been flooded and residents suffered through the worst of the storm’s impact.
Samuel George was displaced twice in the chaos: first when water swamped his Plaquemines Parish home, and Friday when his shelter shut down.
“I probably will never actually go home again,” the slightly built man in an oversized shirt and pants said as he stood outside the YMCA in Belle Chasse.
Plaquemines Parish, an area outside the federal levee zone that protected New Orleans, was the site of some of the worst flooding from Isaac that made landfall Tuesday night.
Col. Edward R. Fleming, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans district commander said his staff will assess the Isaac flooding in outlying parishes for future flood control projects.
Western Lake Pontchartrain water levels began to recede Friday, but was still 4 feet above normal, Gov. Bobby Jindal said at a Friday briefing.
“Even though the storm has moved out of Louisiana, we continue to see lakes and rivers with elevated levels. Some of these rivers could be at flood levels well into next week,” Jindal said.
To the northwest of New Orleans, an emergency effort to intentionally breach an earthen dam and avoid flooding at Lake Tangipahoa in Mississippi appeared to be a success Friday.
Jindal said the work on the dam, which prompted a massive evacuation of up to 60,000 residents along the river in both states Thursday, was expected to take several days, but had been successful so far.
Another intentional breach to relieve Isaac-related flooding – this time of a failing levee to the south of New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish – was also successful, Jindal said.