Communities focus on cleanup as Isaac weakens

Friday, August 31, 2012 - 7:00am

A weakened Isaac moved over Arkansas on Friday, leaving weary residents in southern states digging out of its muddy mess and hundreds of thousands without power.

The weakened storm, now a tropical depression, is expected to move over southern Missouri later in the day after landing as a powerful Category 1 hurricane Tuesday.

It made landfall on the anniversary of Katrina, which devastated Louisiana seven years ago. For some, it felt too much like the deadly hurricane blamed for the deaths of 1,800 people.

"This is unbelievable. Deja vu, man," Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish, said Thursday as he surveyed Ironton town, which was inundated by floodwaters and sludge. "There is more water here than Katrina."

The bodies of a man and woman were found in 7 feet of water at a home in the parish, officials said late Thursday.

An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of the death of the couple, described as being in their 40s, Nungesser said. They were found in the home's kitchen.

Officials intentionally breached a levee in the parish to help drain floodwaters in nearby communities.

In Tangipahoa, Parish President Gordon Burgess called for a mandatory evacuation for those living within a half mile of the Tangipahoa River.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the move was a precaution because if the dam were to break, it would only take 90 minutes for floodwaters to get to Kentwood, a town of about 2,200 residents.

The storm had a "major impact" on Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant said.

Officials in Mississippi reported a storm-related death. A tow truck driver attempting to clear debris on a road was struck and killed by a falling tree, officials said.

An earthen dam on Lake Tangipahoa in Mississippi was holding its own and not leaking late Thursday, despite significant damage, according to the Pike County Emergency Management Agency.

Agency director Richard Coghlan said a "controlled breach" or spillway will be created at the Percy Quin State Park lake to relieve pressure and drain it.

Crews were working carefully overnight, moving in equipment to prepare for the operation expected to commence later Friday.

Isaac moved into southern Arkansas, bringing with it the possibility of flash flooding and tornadoes.

"It's looking more disorganized but it is still putting out quite a bit of rain," said National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Dalton in Little Rock.

Rainfall around Little Rock could total 5 inches by Friday, he said. Higher numbers were expected in the southeastern portion of Arkansas.

Emergency crews are also trying to restore power to many.

More than 827,000 customers -- down from 915,000 earlier in the day -- had no electricity across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, utility companies reported Thursday.

CNN's Brian Todd contributed to this report.

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