The Two-Way
8:00 am
Thu August 30, 2012

After Soaking Gulf Coast, Isaac Is Weakening, Slowly Moving North

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 10:17 pm

The Latest At 10:01 p.m. ET:

-- Isaac, now a tropical depression, is still drenching parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Forecasters say it will eventually move into Arkansas and Missouri.

-- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has added 14 additional counties and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to the federal disaster declaration issued Friday.

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Our Original Post Continues:

Isaac left a lot of heartbreak along the Gulf Coast on Thursday, as it pounded areas with more than a foot of rain and hurricane force winds for hours upon hours.

According to CNN, close to a million people are without power this morning across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The hardest hit area is Plaquemines Parish, a thin strip of land that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico.

The west side of the parish was under a mandatory evacuation, but those who stayed were faced with quickly-rising water and had to find refuge in attics and on roofs.

As The New York Times reports, the images were clear reminders of Katrina, the monster storm that ravaged the area exactly seven years ago yesterday. Luckily, for residents of New Orleans this was no repeat of 2005. The Times reports:

"In New Orleans, the decision by most residents to stay did not turn out to be disastrous. Trees were down across the city, and streets flooded, and three-quarters of the city was without power, as it will be for several days for more than 600,000 across the state, until the wind dies down enough for utility workers to come in. But despite a few nervous moments, the city's all but finished $14.5 billion flood protection system seems to have worked."

We'll keep this post updated throughout the day, because Isaac is still a tropical storm and still has the potential to cause havoc. Make sure to click your refresh button to see the latest.

The Latest At 6:35 p.m. ET:

Now classified as a tropical depression, Isaac is packing winds measured at around 35 mph. But the former hurricane is still raising flood alarms as the system dumps water on Mississippi and neighboring states. That led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people near Percy Quin State Park in southern Mississippi Thursday, as officials sought ways to ease the stress on dams and levees that are near their limits.

The large storm is still dumping rain on parts of southern Louisiana, and both floods and tornadoes continue to be risks as the system makes its way inland. In its wake, cleanup crews are working to remove fallen trees and other debris.

Forecasters say the slow-moving storm is currently on a north-northwest track; they expect it to head into Arkansas early Friday, before making a more northern turn. Current predictions call for an eastern turn in Missouri that could send it across Illinois and Indiana over the weekend.

Here's a quick rundown of other news about the storm:

-- Just 24 hours after instituting a curfew, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has ended the night-time limitation on his city's residents.

-- Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will reopen Friday, reports NOLA.com.

-- The U.S. Geological Survey, which deployed sensors before Hurricane Isaac made landfall Tuesday, says that the storm's winds and storm surge forced the Mississippi River to reverse its flow for nearly 24 hours.

-- Since Isaac made landfall Tuesday, American drivers are now paying an average of 7 cents more for a gallon of gas, reports National Geographic. The national average cost for a gallon of regular gas now stands at $3.82.

-- The storm has left more than 40 percent of Louisiana — some 871,000 homes and businesses — without power, reports the AP. The blackout is near total in the parishes of Plaquemines and St. John the Baptist.

-- In Baton Rouge, LSU says it will resume classes Friday. School officials say that they have power on campus, and that they'll go ahead with Saturday's football game with the visiting North Texas team.

Update at 4:14 p.m. ET:

-- Authorities have begun a controlled release of water at a stressed dam at Percy Quin State Park in southern Mississippi.

-- Before the controlled release, Louisiana ordered a mandatory evacuation of the areas half a mile from the Tangipahoa River between the cities of Kentwood to Robert, La. That area is home to about 50,000 to 60,000 people. Officials said that about 85 percent of the city of Tangipahoa had already left.

Mississippi has also called for the evacuation of areas along the river, south of the dam.

During a news conference, La. Gov. Bobby Jindal said if this dam breaks, "it could rival the floods of record, which were in 1983 and 1990 in Tangipahoa."

-- Authorities have rescued about 80 people from high water in Slidell, La., a subdivision on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain.

-- Crews have also begun an intentional breech of a levee in southern part of the state in Plaquemines Parish, La.

-- In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center says Isaac is now a tropical depression.

Update at 4:08 p.m. ET. Hope It's A False Alarm:

"Let's hope that it's a false alarm."

That's what Gov. Bobby Jindal said about the mass evacuations ordered in his state of Louisiana.

He said Mississippi officials believe that by intentionally releasing water from a dam at Percy Quin State Park in southern Mississippi, they can avoid a greater breach that could flood communities down stream.

"They are hopeful," Jindal said that the integrity of the dam will hold. But he said they wanted people to leave because a breach may happen in the middle of the night when the Tangipahoa River crests.

Update at 3:36 p.m. ET. Controlled Release:

The AP just moved this alert:

"La. officials: Controlled release of water begins, reducing threat at endangered dam in Miss."

Update at 2:01 p.m. ET. Not Sure What Effect Break Could Have:

Kavanaugh Breazeale, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells our Newscast unit, that they are assessing the situation in Mississippi.

"If a dam breaks there's always some type of danger that it may affect some types of dwellings, certain houses in the area," he said. "I'm not sure at this time, if it were to breech what would be the effect. It is in a rural part of Mississippi.

"What may happen ... is the rivers could swell downstream into the state Louisiana and it could affect the residents there."

Update at 1:15 p.m. ET. In Slidell, Rescues Ongoing:

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reports that authorities are rescuing people from high water in Slidell, La., a subdivision on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain.

By noon eastern, the paper says National Guard troops and local officers had rescued about 80 people.

The paper adds:

"Shortly before 8 a.m., police fetched Rebecca Bass and two of her children, Jennifer, 7, and Jacob, 1, from their house on Cardy Street in the Salmen Addition subdivision, which is surrounded by water about 3 feet deep. They called for help early this morning.

"Rebecca clutched Jacob to her breast while a shivering and scared Jennifer, barefoot, went to the front of the truck and started to cry.

"'I go to Brock Elementary,' she said. 'But it's ruined now.'"

Update at 1:01 p.m. ET. If Dam Breaks Floods Could Break Records:

The Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is live tweeting La. Gov. Bobby Jindal's press conference.

They report Jindal said if this dam break, "it could rival the floods of record, which are 1983 and 1990 in Tangipahoa."

The add:

"Gov @BobbyJindal: Mississippi is considering a controlled breach of dam. If they do that, they don't estimate a water impact in LA."

Update at 12:48 p.m. ET. In Plaquemines Levee Will Be Intentionally Breeched:

The AP reports:

"In Plaquemines Parish, a sparsely populated area south of the city that is outside the improved federal levee system, dozens of people were stranded in flooded coastal areas and had to be rescued. The storm pushed water over an 18-mile (29-kilometer) levee and put so much pressure on it that authorities planned to intentionally puncture the floodwall to relieve the strain."

During a newsconference Gov. Bobby Jindal said that intentional puncture would happen between 2 and 3 p.m. today.

Update at 12:20 p.m. ET. Tens Of Thousands:

Tangipahoa Parish President tells WWLTV that Louisiana has ordered a mandatory evacuation along the Tangipahoa River from Kentwood to Robert, La. That area is home to about 50,000 to 60,000 people.

"Gov. Bobby Jindal has agreed to send over busses to help with the evacuation," reports WWLTV.

The National Weather Service tweeted that Mississippi had ordered an evacuation along the river, below the dam. That includes most of Pike County, Miss.

Update at 11:47 a.m. ET. Imminent Dam Failure Causes Evacuation:

The National Weather Service in New Orleans says that local emergency officials in Southwestern Pike County in Southern Mississippi are ordering the evacuation of thousands, because the Lake Tangipahoa Dam is expected to fail.

The Weather Service reports:

"Water level rises are expected to be near 8 feet below the dam to 6 feet at Osyka."

Osyka is right on the border of Louisiana, which has also ordered evacuations along the Tangipahoa River.

Update at 10:47 a.m. ET. Winds Decreasing:

In its 11 a.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center says Isaac now has winds of 40 mph and while the flood risk is still there, it has picked up some speed. It is now moving north at 9 mph.

Update at 8:08 a.m. ET. Flooding North Of New Orleans:

On Morning Edition, NPR's Greg Allen says that some communities to the north of New Orleans have seen significant flooding.

Some of the rivers north of Lake Pontchartrain have also swelled and will have a tough time draining "quickly because the lake is so high."

Greg says with more rain on its way we could see more flooding in the northern Gulf Coast.

Update at 7:54 a.m. ET. Still Hazardous:

In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center reports that despite the fact that winds are down to 45 mph, Isaac is still a dangerous storm.

In fact, when it is downgraded to a tropical depression later on today, it will still have the potential to produce "life-threatening hazards from storm surge, inland flooding and tornadoes."

Another thing to keep in mind is that the storm will affect a huge area. The center predicts it will dump seven to 14 inches of rain across much of Louisiana, Mississippi, southwest Alabama and Arkansas.

"These rains could result in significant lowland flooding," the Hurricane Center reports.

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