Isaac brings flooding and drought relief

2012-08-31 10:35

New Orleans - The remnants of Hurricane Isaac continue to cause headaches on Friday, bringing heavy rainfall and the threat of flash flooding to the lower Mississippi Valley as Gulf Coast residents get ready to start their cleanup efforts.

The first hurricane to hit the United States this year will be remembered for striking New Orleans on the anniversary of 2005's deadly Hurricane Katrina - and providing a first, successful test of the city's pricey new flood defences.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu concluded that the ring of defences was "operating as designed".

Now a tropical depression, Isaac can still trigger tornadoes in Mississippi and Louisiana, the National Hurricane Centre said - among the final acts of a storm that punched above its weight in terms of impact and often confounded forecasters.


One bright spot: rain that is expected to reach the central US Midwest over the weekend, a godsend to farmers suffering from the worst drought in more than 50 years, even if too late for many of this season's crops.

Isaac caused widespread flooding and property damage in the US Gulf Coast region, mostly because of its unexpectedly heavy and persistent rainfall. The system lingered near New Orleans for the best part of two days, sometimes moving as slowly as 8km per hour.

"Most of them blow through and are over with. This one is just hanging around too long," George Dubaz, a New Orleans tour guide, said during the deluge.

The storm caused anywhere from $700m to $2bn in insured onshore losses, disaster modeller AIR Worldwide said late on Thursday.

That would still leave Isaac, which came onshore as a Category 1 hurricane, well outside the 10 most costly US hurricanes.

New Orleans sustained mostly cosmetic damage such as downed trees and street lights. A massive police and National Guard presence - and a dusk-to-dawn curfew, now lifted - also helped keep things calm even as much of the city lost power.

The Port of New Orleans and the city's airport were ready to reopen on Friday, authorities said.

Surrounding areas, though, without the new protective federal flood barriers, did not fare as well from the relentless rain and huge storm surges brought forth by Isaac.

Late on Thursday, local officials confirmed the death of a man and a woman in the parish town of Braithwaite. The pair apparently drowned in their kitchen as flood waters surged in. Earlier, a Mississippi man died after being hit by a falling tree.

Isaac killed at least 23 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic before taking aim at the United States.

Some 700 000 residents and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi were still without electricity on Thursday, down from a peak of over 1 million.