Tens of thousands of people remained without electricity in Louisiana and Mississippi Monday, six days after Hurricane Isaac inundated the Gulf Coast with a deluge that still has some areas under water. The large, slow-moving storm also forced many oil and gas refineries to cease or cut production.
Louisiana’s Public Service Commission reports that 105,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity — about 5 percent of the customers statewide. After the storm came ashore, more than 900,000 customers lost their power, nearing half the homes and businesses around the state.
The largest outage area remains Plaquemines Parish, where the storm inundated the mostly rural area with floodwaters that swallowed homes. Seventy percent of the parish’s utility customers remained without power by Monday afternoon.
One-third of the customers in hard-hit St. John the Baptist Parish were without electricity, followed by 27 percent of the customers in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans.
At least seven people were killed in the storm in the U.S. — five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.
Candidates Tour Damage
President Barack Obama consoled victims of Isaac along the Gulf Coast Monday, inspecting damage inflicted by the storm. At times like these, “nobody’s a Democrat or a Republican, we’re all just Americans looking out for one another,” the president said. He was flanked by local and state officials of both parties as he spoke.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited areas hit by the storm Friday, after accepting his party’s nomination to challenge Obama at the Republican National Convention.
In St. John the Baptist Parish, where the president was to visit, residents spent Labor Day dragging waterlogged carpet and furniture to the curb and using bleach and water to clean hopefully to prevent mold.
LaPlace resident Barbara Melton swept mud and debris from her home, which was at one point under 2 feet of water. The garbage, debris and standing water — combined with heat reaching the 90s — created a terrible stench.
“It’s hot, it stinks, but I’m trying to get all this mud and stuff out of my house,” she said.
Progress, And Problem Areas
Progress was evident in many places, though lingering flooding remained a problem in low-lying areas.
Crews in the town of Lafitte intentionally breached a levee Sunday night in an effort to help flooding there subside, Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts told The Times-Picayune.
Much of Plaquemines Parish, a vulnerable finger of land that juts into the Gulf of Mexico, remained under as much as 5 feet of water, Parish President Billy Nungesser said. The Category 1 hurricane walloped the parish, and for many, the damage was worse than that from Katrina in 2005.
More than 2,800 people were at shelters in Louisiana, down from around 4,000. State officials were uncertain how many people would eventually need longer-term temporary housing. Kevin Davis, head of the state’s emergency office, said housing would likely include hotels at first, then rental homes as close as possible to their damaged property.
Oil Refineries Resuming Operation
At the height of the storm, 1.3 million barrels per day of oil production was suspended. The government said Monday that 800,000 barrels per day remained offline, or 58 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s normal production.
Nine refineries in the path of Isaac are restarting or operating at reduced rates. One refinery has returned to full operation and one, the Belle Chasse, La., refinery operated by Phillips 66, is still shut down because it is still without power.
The national average price of gasoline rose 11 cents last week. By Friday, the price had leveled off. Monday, it declined slightly to $2.827 per gallon.