Days after Isaac, 100K still in dark

An air boat on Monday speeds past debris and a flooded home in receding waters from Hurricane Isaac along Louisiana Highway 23 near Port Sulphur, La.

NEW ORLEANS — 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.

President Barack Obama visited Monday, a day ahead of the Democratic National Convention, and walked around storm damage in St. John the Baptist Parish, where subdivisions were soaked in water from Isaac.

“I know it’s a mess,” Obama said as he approached a resident in the Ridgewood neighborhood. “But we’re here to help.”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited the state Friday.

In St. John the Baptist Parish, 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 likely would 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.

“I’ve never seen water come up this quick this fast,” he said.

Nungesser said there were reports that cattle in the largely rural parish took refuge on porches. In one instance, cattle broke through a window and lumbered onto furniture to stay above water.

Controlled breaches of one overtopped levee and additional pumps are being used to get rid of the water.

Entergy, which provides power to most of the people who lost it, was under fire over the weekend from local government officials for what they said was a slow pace of restoration. Jefferson Parish President John Young said widespread outages were hampering businesses’ recovery from the storm and he would ask the state Public Service Commission to investigate.