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Isaac leaves lots of water and power outages in its wake

The storm that first hit Louisiana Tuesday is moving into the nation's heartland, as of Friday. Thousands have been washed out of their homes and left in the dark.

By Cain Burdeau and Michael KunzelmanAssociated Press / August 31, 2012

A helicopter flies over a a staging area in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, as rescue workers and local officials ready boats for a rescue mission outside of Belle Chasse on August 30. Heavy flooding occurred in rural areas of southern Louisiana.

Ann Hermes / The Christian Science Monitor

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New Orleans

Isaac sloshed northwards into the nation's midsection Friday after flooding stretches of Louisiana and knocking out power, leaving entire water-logged neighborhoods without lights, air conditioning or clean water.

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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 north 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.

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.

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."

Chopin was upset that pumps meant to keep the area dry either failed or were shut off.

"We knew it was coming, but they didn't tell us we had to evacuate. We had no idea it was gonna be like this," he said, a refrain echoed by many.

Cisco Gonzales, a heating and air conditioning business owner, said he got his boat and truck and headed for higher ground when he heard the water was rising quickly, from 0 to 6 feet of water in five minutes.

"I've never seen so much water in my life," said Gonzales, who built a home in Braithwaite, southeast of the city, after his previous home was damaged by Katrina in 2005.

He rode out the storm at a ferry landing and when the weather calmed, he went out and rescued about a dozen people.

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