Worst over

A Louisiana resident sits in the bay of his truck along a flooded road as rains from Tropical Storm Isaac pound the state.

NEW ORLEANS — Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to weaken further as it heads north today, after causing significant damage to the US Gulf Coast but nothing on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

The former Category One hurricane was likely to become a tropical depression today, and could still bring heavy rain and floods as it moved across the centre of the country over the next few days, the National Hurricane Centre said.

As Isaac ebbs, probes should show an elaborate flood containment plan developed for low-lying New Orleans survived its first major test, seven years to the day after Katrina laid waste to the city and killed more than 1,800 people.

And as the focus shifts from the coast, many further north will hope that Isaac brings rain desperately needed to ease a drought in the center of the United States, where summer crops have been ravaged and many rivers and dams are critically low.

The mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, said the $14.5 billion system built for New Orleans by the Army Corps of Engineers – an array of walls, floodgates, levees and pumps – had performed “exactly as it should”.

More than 730,000 residents of Louisiana and Mississippi were still without power.

Isaac never came close to the power of Katrina, which was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale when it smashed into New Orleans on August 29, 2005 – a day that still reverberates in the nation’s psyche.

And early indications are that property damage from Isaac will not make the top-10 list of worst US hurricanes by inflation-adjusted losses.

But the storm still produced major headaches, especially the seemingly endless rain that caught many long-time residents by surprise, trapped some on rooftops, and caused significant flooding in low-lying coastal areas. (Reuters)

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