* Fading storm still triggers flash floods, tornadoes
* New Orleans flood defenses came through unscathed
* Onshore insured losses seen up to $2 billion
By Ellen Wulfhorst and Scott Malone
NEW ORLEANS, Aug 31 The remnants of Hurricane
Isaac continue to cause headaches on Friday, bringing heavy
rainfall and the threat of flash flooding to the lower
Mississippi Valley as Gulf Coast residents get ready to start
their cleanup efforts.
The first hurricane to hit the United States this year will
be remembered for striking New Orleans on the anniversary of
2005's deadly Hurricane Katrina - and providing a first,
successful test of the city's pricey new flood defenses.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu concluded that the ring of
defenses was "operating as designed."
Now a tropical depression, Isaac can still trigger tornadoes
in Mississippi and Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said
- among the final acts of a storm that punched above its weight
in terms of impact and often confounded forecasters.
One bright spot: rain that is expected to reach the central
U.S. Midwest over the weekend, a godsend to farmers suffering
from the worst drought in more than 50 years, even if too late
for many of this season's crops.
Isaac caused widespread flooding and property damage in the
U.S. Gulf Coast region, mostly because of its unexpectedly heavy
and persistent rainfall. The system lingered near New Orleans
for the best part of two days, sometimes moving as slowly as
five miles an hour (8 km per hour).
"Most of them blow through and are over with. This one is
just hanging around too long," George Dubaz, a New Orleans tour
guide, said during the deluge.
The storm caused anywhere from $700 million to $2 billion in
insured onshore losses, disaster modeler AIR Worldwide said late
That would still leave Isaac, which came onshore as a
Category 1 hurricane, well outside the 10 most costly U.S.
New Orleans' Audubon Park recorded 18.7 inches (47.5 cm) of
rain in a 24-hour period during Isaac. That exceeded all records
dating back to 1871, said Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.
Many other locations in Louisiana and Mississippi logged more
than 10 inches (25.4 cm) of rain.
Through it all New Orleans sustained mostly cosmetic damage
such as downed trees and street lights. A massive police and
National Guard presence - and a dusk-to-dawn curfew, now lifted
- also helped keep things calm even as much of the city lost
The Port of New Orleans and the city's airport were ready to
reopen on Friday, authorities said.
Surrounding areas, though, without the new protective federal
flood barriers, did not fare as well from the relentless rain
and huge storm surges brought forth by Isaac.
Some of the worst flooding was in Plaquemines Parish,
southwest of New Orleans, where flood waters overtopped at least
one levee and left many homes under about 12 feet (3.6 meters)
Late on Thursday, local officials confirmed the death of a
man and a woman in the parish town of Braithwaite. The pair
apparently drowned in their kitchen as flood waters surged in.
Earlier, a Mississippi man died after being hit by a falling
Isaac killed at least 23 people in Haiti and the Dominican
Republic before taking aim at the United States.
Slidell, a town of about 27,000 people northeast of New
Orleans, took the brunt of a storm surge from Lake
Pontchartrain, which left some neighborhoods under about a foot
(30 cm) of water.
"You'd have never made me believe a Category 1 would dump
this much water," said Sam Caruso, 71, a former mayor of Slidell
who toured the town in his pickup truck on Thursday.
As the flood waters rose, some residents, including Caruso,
wondered whether the new federal levee system had shored up New
Orleans at the expense of low-lying neighboring parishes outside
the system's protection - a debate that is likely to continue.
Benchmark crude oil prices slipped on Thursday after major
oil facilities on the Gulf of Mexico made it through Isaac
The smallest of six Louisiana oil refineries began to power
back up on Thursday and most other oil and gas companies in the
U.S. Gulf Coast region were preparing to restart.
Some 700,000 residents and businesses in Louisiana and
Mississippi were still without electricity on Thursday, down
from a peak of over 1 million.