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Communities focus on clean up as Issac weakens

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
August 31, 2012 -- Updated 1052 GMT (1852 HKT)
  • NEW: Two bodies found at home in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana
  • Levee intentionally breached in Louisiana parish
  • Dam still holding in Mississippi state park
  • Power outages reduced

Have you been affected by Isaac? Share your photos here.

(CNN) -- Issac is expected to move over Arkansas on Friday and over southern Missouri Friday night after lingering over the Louisiana area dumping heavy rains for days.

After making landfall on Tuesday night as a powerful Category 1 hurricane, Issac has weakened and was downgraded to a tropical storm than a tropical depression.

It came virtually on the same day, seven years after Katrina devastated Louisiana and for some Issac felt too much like the deadly hurricane that is blamed for the deaths of 1,800 people.

"This is unbelievable. Deja vu, man," said Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish, Thursday as he surveyed the hard-hit town of Ironton that was inundated by floodwaters and sludge. "There is more water here than Katrina."

But for the many that braced for the worse and were spared, Friday is a day to breath a sigh of relief and to continue to clean up the mess Issac left behind.

Melanie and Philip Martinez Sr. have dinner in daughter Kala's one-bedroom apartment on Saturday, September 8, in Chalmette, Louisiana. Melanie, along with her husband and mother, are staying in Kala's apartment after their home in Braithwaite flooded during Hurricane Isaac. It was the fifth home Martinez has lost to hurricanes in Louisiana. Melanie and Philip Martinez Sr. have dinner in daughter Kala's one-bedroom apartment on Saturday, September 8, in Chalmette, Louisiana. Melanie, along with her husband and mother, are staying in Kala's apartment after their home in Braithwaite flooded during Hurricane Isaac. It was the fifth home Martinez has lost to hurricanes in Louisiana.
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State government offices in at least 13 parishes would remained closed Friday because of flooding and most others would reopen, CNN affiliate WBRZ reported.

Emergency crews were also trying to restore power to many.

More than 827,000 customers -- down from 915,000 earlier in the day -- had no electricity across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, utility companies reported Thursday.

One company, Coast Electric Power, reduced a high of 30,000 outages to 8,000 by Thursday evening

The bodies of a man and woman were found in 7 feet of water at a home in Plaquemines Parish, officials said late Thursday.

An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of the death of the couple, described as being their 40s, Nungesser told CNN. The two were found late Thursday afternoon in the home's kitchen.

The house is on the parish's East Bank, said Commander Terry Rutherford of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office.

Officials also intentionally breached a levee in Plaquemines Parish, southeast of New Orleans. The move was needed to help drain floodwaters in the Braithwaite and Scarsdale communities.

In Tangipahoa, Parish President Gordon Burgess called for a mandatory evacuation for those living within a half mile of the Tangipahoa River.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the move was a precaution because if the dam were to break it would only take 90 minutes for floodwaters to get to Kentwood, a town of about 2,200 residents.

Later Thursday, Burgess said he did not know how many people had been evacuated along the 54-mile stretch of the river. Kentwood saw 75 people move.

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"I'm feeling much more comfortable tonight and I'm going to sleep better tonight," Burgess said.

The storm has had a "major impact" on Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant said in Gulfport said Thursday.

Also officials in Mississippi earlier reported a storm-related death. A tow truck driver attempting to clear debris on a road was struck and killed by a falling tree, officials said. The incident took place at midnight, said Amanda Harris, deputy director of the Pearl River County Emergency Management office. The National Weather Service said it received reports of the fatality in Picayune.

An earthen dam on 700-acre Lake Tangipahoa in Mississippi was holding its own and not leaking late Thursday, despite significant damage, according to the Pike County Emergency Management Agency.

Agency director Richard Coghlan said a "controlled breach" or spillway will be created at the Percy Quin State Park lake to relieve pressure and drain it.

Crews were working carefully overnight, moving in equipment to prepare for the operation expected to commence later Friday once water levels drop a bit. "They don't want to influence the level of the river any more than they have to."

Residents of 19 houses and seven mobile homes, along with three businesses, below the lake were asked to evacuate.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency does not expect a catastrophic event, said spokesman Greg Flynn. Coghlan agreed with that assessment.

Water levels in most affected areas will gradually subside Friday, the hurricane center said, concluding its reports on Isaac.

Isaac moved into southern Arkansas Thursday afternoon, bringing with it the possibility of flash flooding and tornadoes.

"It's looking more disorganized but it is still putting out quite a bit of rain," said National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Dalton in Little Rock.

Rainfall around Little Rock could total 5 inches by Friday, said Dalton. Higher numbers were expected in the southeastern portion of Arkansas.

CNN's Brian Todd contributed to this report.

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