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Isaac brings rain to Arkansas as Gulf Coast begins cleanup

By Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times –

WASHINGTON — As Isaac made its way into Arkansas on Friday, Gulf Coast communities struggled with high water left by the storm. One couple was found dead inside their flooded Louisiana home.

Isaac, now a tropical depression, was expected to drench Arkansas and Missouri with heavy rain Friday, Meghan Evans, an AccuWeather meteorologist, told the Los Angeles Times on Friday morning.

Flash flooding was possible, but the rain also arrives at a time when the area has been suffering from a severe drought.

As the Gulf Coast worked to clean up debris, restore power to hundreds of thousands of residents and reopen businesses, the U.S. death toll from the storm rose to at least four. A man and a woman were found in 7 feet of water in their kitchen in Plaquemines Parish, and two people were killed in separate accidents in Mississippi when trees fell on their vehicles.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, meanwhile, was headed to Louisiana on Friday from the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., for a firsthand look at storm damage, even as emergency crews worked to stem flood threats.

At Lake Tangipahoa in Mississippi, where a dam has been at risk of failing, water was draining over the emergency spillway “as it was designed to do,” Jeff Rent of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said in an interview.

Although the situation was “under control,” he said, crews are expected to cut into the earthen dam Friday in an effort to further bring down the water level and reduce the risk of flooding to homes downriver. Thousands of downriver residents had been ordered to evacuate.

The storm could cost insurers $500 million to $1.5 billion for onshore property damage, according to an estimate from Eqecat Inc., a catastrophic risk management firm. Economic losses to offshore energy assets are expected to range from $500 million to $1 billion.

The Mississippi River is expected to reopen Friday to shipping between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, said Bob Anderson of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division.

In Arkansas, Tommy Jackson of the Department of Emergency Management said in an interview that there were reports of flash flooding in the southern part of the state, but no calls for evacuations.

“We’ve had nothing like Louisiana,” he said. But he said officials were on alert for the possibility of tornadoes in eastern Arkansas.

“Other than that, we’ve got a much-needed rainfall,” he said.

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