NEW ORLEANS, USA (AP) — Newly downgraded Tropical Storm Isaac plodded its way across Louisiana yesterday, inundating parts of a mostly rural area southeast of New Orleans, while in the city, on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, levees were so far holding.
In hard-hit Plaquemines Parish, officials rescued dozens of people by boat after they became stranded by flood waters. Authorities feared more could need help after a night of slashing rain and fierce winds that knocked out power to more than 700,000 households.
The hurricane also cancelled commemoration ceremonies yesterday for Katrina's 1,800 dead in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said officials were considering using a backhoe to cut a hole in a levee on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish to relieve pressure on the structure, something they did during Katrina and Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Jindal said there was no estimate on when that decision would be made; it was still too dangerous to venture out.
Joshua Brockhaus, an electrician who lives in the flooded area, helped rescue neighbors in his boat.
"I'm getting text messages from all over asking for help," he said. "I'm dropping my dogs off and I'm going back out there."
Alvin Sylve, a disabled former long-distance truck driver, was preparing to get out. He lives on a street with rows of mobile homes in Jesuit Bend in Plaquemines Parish, an area outside the federal levee system where people were ordered to evacuate Wednesday as conditions worsened.
"We've never seen it this bad," he said. "The way this wind is shifting."
Meanwhile in New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a curfew in part to make it easier for utility crews to restore electricity. Officials also warned they would make arrests for looting. So far, there had been only sporadic arrests.
Although Isaac was at Category 1 compared with a much stronger Katrina — which peaked at Category 5 and made landfall at Category 3 — the threat of dangerous storm surges and flooding from heavy rain was expected to last all day and into the night as the immense comma-shaped storm crawled across Louisiana.
Army corps spokeswoman Rachel Rodi said the city's bigger, stronger levees were withstanding the assault.
"The system is performing as intended, as we expected," she said. "We don't see any issues with the hurricane system at this point."
There were initial problems with a few of several pumps not working at the 17th Street Canal, the site of a breach on the day Katrina struck, but it was fixed and there were no problems, Rodi said.
The storm drew attention because of its timing __ coinciding with the Katrina anniversary and the first major speeches of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was considering whether to visit the Gulf Coast after Isaac.
Isaac promised to test a New Orleans levee system bolstered by $14 billion in federal repairs and improvements after the catastrophic failures during Katrina.