Days after Isaac, thousands still in the dark

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tens of thousands of customers remained in the dark Monday in Louisiana and Mississippi, nearly a week after Isaac inundated the Gulf Coast with a deluge that still has some low-lying areas under water.

Most of those were in Louisiana, where utilities reported more than 100,000 people without power. Thousands also were without power in Mississippi and Arkansas.

In Louisiana, many evacuees remained at shelters or bunked with friends or relatives.

“My family is split up,” said Angela Serpas, from severely flooded Braithwaite in Plaquemines Parish. Serpas and her daughter were staying with her in-laws while her husband and son were staying in Belle Chasse, a suburban area of the parish.

“This is the second time we’ve lost our home. We lost it in Katrina,” she said.

Meanwhile, inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are out trying to get a handle on losses. Residents can apply for grants to get help with home repairs and temporary housing, among other expenses.

President Barack Obama was to visit Louisiana on Monday, a day ahead of the Democratic National Convention. He will meet with local officials, tour storm damage, and view response and recovery efforts before addressing reporters at St. John the Baptist Parish. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited the state Friday. Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, visited Bay St. Louis, Miss., and Slidell, La., on Sunday.

“We are part of a team to make sure Hurricane Isaac is put to rest as soon as we can for all those affected,” Napolitano said. “In the meantime, please know all of us are thinking about those in Louisiana who are without their homes or without their businesses.”

At least seven people were killed in the storm in the U.S. — five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.

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.

Melton was grateful for the president’s visit.

“I think it’s awesome to have a president that cares and wants to come out and see what he can do,” Melton, 60, said.

A few houses away, Ed Powell said Isaac was enough to make him question whether to stay.

“I know Louisiana’s a gambling state, but we don’t want to gamble in this method because when you lose this way, you lose a lot.”

Powell said even if Obama comes up with a plan or solution to the flooding problem in his area, time is not on the residents’ side.

“Even if they narrow down what the problem is and begin to resolve the problem, it usually takes years. And between now and whenever, a lot of things can happen,” Powell said.

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.

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.

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