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Isaac pelts La., causes floods, outages

NEW ORLEANS -- Isaac hovered over Louisiana for a third day yesterday, shedding more than a foot of additional rain that forced authorities to hurriedly evacuate areas ahead of the storm and rescue hundreds who could not escape as the rapidly rising waters swallowed entire neighborhoods.

The huge spiral weather system weakened to a tropical depression as it crawled inland, but it caught many places off guard by its meandering, unpredictable path. Its excruciatingly slow movement meant that Isaac practically parked over low-lying towns and threw off great sheets of water for hours.

"I was blindsided. Nobody expected this," said Richard Musatchia, who fled his water-filled home in LaPlace, northwest of New Orleans.

Inside the fortified levees that protected New Orleans, bursts of sunshine streamed through the thick clouds, and life began to return to normal. But beyond the city, people got their first good look at Isaac's damage: Hundreds of homes were underwater. Half the state was without power. Thousands were staying at shelters.

And the damage may not be over. Even more rain was expected in Louisiana.

Isaac dumped as much as 16 inches in some areas, and about 500 people had to be rescued by boat or high-water vehicles. At least two deaths were reported.

Isaac hit on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, though the differences were stark. Katrina was more powerful, coming ashore as a Category 3 storm. Isaac was a Category 1 at its peak. Katrina barreled into the state and quickly moved through. Isaac crept across the landscape at less than 10 mph and wobbled constantly.

Eric Blake, at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said that although Isaac's cone shifted west as it zigzagged toward the Gulf Coast, forecasters accurately predicted its path, intensity and rainfall.

Along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, officials sent scores of buses and dozens of high-water vehicles to help evacuate about 3,000 people as floodwaters lapped against houses and stranded cars. The water rose waist-high in some neighborhoods, and the Louisiana National Guard worked with sheriff's deputies to rescue people stuck in their homes.

Crews intentionally breached a levee that was strained by Isaac's floodwaters in southeast Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish. Water at a dam farther north in Mississippi was released to prevent flooding there.

More than 900,000 homes and businesses around the state -- about 47 percent of all customers -- were without power yesterday. Utility company Entergy said that included about 157,000 in New Orleans.

In Mississippi, several coastal communities struggled with the extra water, including Pascagoula, where a large portion of the city flooded and water blocked downtown intersections. High water also prevented more than 800 people from returning to their homes in Bay St. Louis.

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