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Isaac Just Misses New Orleans

At the last minute, Hurricane Isaac sidestepped the city of New Orleans, choosing instead to unload the brunt of its Category 1 fury on some small fishing villages nearby, villages with few defenses against a storm that is slow moving and may bring days of constant torrential rain. Isaac came ashore seven years to the day the Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed the Big Easy, only this time the fortified levee system was able to handle the massive storm surge.

The damage inflicted consisted largely of downed power lines, broken tree limbs, and areas of minor flooding. Unlike Katrina’s death toll of more than 1800, only one person was killed by Isaac, and there were very few reports of looting or other lawlessness in the storm’s wake. Some areas just south of the city reported localized flooding that stranded people resulting in rescue operations being undertaken.

By midafternoon on Wednesday, Isaac was downgraded to a tropical storm, moving northwest and leaving behind much less damage than had been anticipated. Isaac was also far weaker than Katrina, although its slow speed was expected to bring serious problems with rainfall and subsequent flooding problems.

The storm knocked out power to more than 700,000 people, stripped trees of their branches and leveled sugar cane fields. Some areas issued mandatory evacuation orders, and a dusk to dawn curfew was put in place to prevent the threat of looting.

The storm canceled remembrance ceremonies in New Orleans for those who were killed by Katrina. Since that disaster in 2005, the city’s levee system has been upgraded to the tune of $14 billion in repairs and improvements. The stronger levees received their first major shakedown with the arrival of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. These same flood control measures worked as expected during Isaac as well.

Isaac made landfall as a Category 1 storm late Tuesday, with winds topping 80 mph and a wall of water almost 11 feet high being driven inland. The one fatality was a 36 year old man who fell 18 feet from a tree while helping some friends move a vehicle ahead of the storm. Nobody is quite sure why he climbed the tree in the first place.

The storm stalled for a few hours before resuming its course inland, and forecasters agreed that this was just another step in its very erratic and unpredictable history. The slow movement means that Isaac has that much more opportunity to soak inland areas with up to 20 inches of rain.

Forecaster predict that Isaac will move further inland over the next few days, dropping rain on drought plagued areas in the Midwest before finally blowing itself out sometime this weekend.


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