News roundup: N.O. residents step out as Isaac moves on … Retailers report best sales growth since March … Romney readies for his big speech
On this new morning: Dawn broke in New Orleans with lighter winds, and people in one Uptown neighborhood came out in intermittent rain to begin cleaning up and just walk around. Police cars patrolled, but no city or power company crews were evident there early today. Sixty-seven-year-old Hal Mumford wasn't waiting for city workers to clean up the street outside his house. Feeling cooped up after two nights without power, he raked fallen branches away from a catch basin so that water could drain out of the gutters. There were signs of life in other parts of the city as well. Read the full story here.
Ring it up: Americans kept spending this summer, despite widespread and escalating fears about the slow economic recovery and surging gas prices. A group of 18 retailers ranging from discounter Target to club-operator Costco reported monthly sales today that rose 6%—the industry's best performance since March—according to trade group International Council of Shopping Centers. The results come as the government released numbers showing that Americans spent in July at the fastest clip in five months. More details are available in the full story here.
Tonight's the night: Republican Mitt Romney is stepping up for the most important speech of his life, to an audience of millions, after a rousing warm-up from a running mate who vowed the days of dodging painful budget choices will end if Americans vote President Barack Obama out of office. Having grasped the nomination on his second try, after years spent straining toward this moment, Romney will use his speech tonight to introduce himself to a large portion of voters and claw for advantage in a race that could scarcely be any closer. The full story is here.
Today's poll question: Which news outlet has been your primary source of information on Hurricane Isaac?
Editor's note: Daily Report is continually updating a list of Isaac-related cancellations and closures, as well as providing emergency contact information. See the complete rundown here; and send any updates/additions to be considered for inclusion by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grand Isle mayor assessing damage
On Grand Isle, Mayor David Camardelle spent this morning touring the island, assessing damage and making plans to get residents back home. The island had been under a mandatory evacuation since Hurricane Isaac approached Louisiana's coast earlier in the week. Camardelle says some of his efforts are being hampered by a downed cell phone tower, which complicates communications. The entire island was covered with water during the storm. This morning the mayor was finding lots of debris and roof damage, and he was overseeing the use of heavy equipment to repair damaged levees. The top priority, he says, is to get the public water system and other utilities working. Isaac dealt a financial blow to Grand Isle because it hit just before the Labor Day weekend, usually a busy time for the tourist-dependent community.
Many coastal refineries soaked and idle
Pump prices continued to rise as downgraded Tropical Storm Isaac drenched Louisiana, even though concern about gasoline supplies seemed to vanish Wednesday, The Houston Chronicle reports. Isaac hampered oil companies for a third straight day, however, keeping workers away from massive plants and knocking out power to one of the many Gulf Coast refineries that had been shut down. Ten Gulf Coast refineries with combined crude oil processing capacity of about 2.4 million barrels a day were offline or running at reduced rates as of Wednesday, according to the Oil Price Information Service. That includes about 10% of the nation's gasoline production capacity, the service reported. Refiners were preparing to assess the storm's effects on their operations. Damage and flooding could delay workers from returning to evacuated facilities and restarting them. Gasoline stockpiles were high, however, with about 68.9 million gallons in storage along the Gulf Coast, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That is more than enough to make up for the estimated 900,000 barrels of daily gasoline production now offline, says Ben Brockwell, director of the Oil Price Information Service's data, pricing and information service. Read the full story here for more details.
Major roadways closed in parts of south Louisiana
Several major traffic arteries around St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes remain closed today because of the lingering floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac. The Louisiana State Police says Interstate 55 is closed in both directions, from Interstate 10 in LaPlace to U.S. Hwy. 51 in Ponchatoula. Interstate 10 is closed in several spots, including in both directions in the LaPlace area, which experienced heavy flooding. Exit ramps at one Slidell stop were shut today. The Causeway Bridge over Lake Pontchartrain also was shuttered, according to state police. Updates on all road closures can be accessed by calling 511 or checking online at 511LA.org.
As storm dissipates, power returns for some in EBR
The back side of Isaac was less powerful than the front end, allowing utility crews the opportunity to begin assessing the damage in East Baton Rouge Parish well before dawn today, and in some cases fixing it. However, flooded streets, downed trees and power lines still pose hazards. DEMCO had about 55,000 customers without power at about 9 a.m., down from a peak of about 73,000, spokesman David Latona says. Of those still without power, about 25,000 are in Livingston Parish, with 10,000 in East Baton Rouge, 8,000 in Ascension Parish, 8,500 in West and East Feliciana parishes, 2,500 in St. Helena Parish, and 500 in Tangipahoa Parish. Latona says DEMCO has 700 additional workers helping out. The process of restoring electricity for everyone will take several days, he says; DEMCO will have a better idea of which areas will be up once the assessment is complete. Entergy did not return calls seeking comment as of this morning's deadline. However, the Public Service Commission says about 82,500 Entergy customers in East Baton Rouge Parish lost power in the storm. The company's outage map also shows about 14,600 customers in Livingston Parish without electricity; and about 17,900 in Ascension Parish. A statement on the outage site says: "We continue to assess damage … We will start restoring power after winds fall below 30 mph and conditions are safe for our personnel to work." Neither utility company has provided an estimate of when all power may be restored. See Entergy's outage map here, and DEMCO's outage map here. Statewide, about 47% of Louisiana—an estimated 901,000 homes and businesses—remain without power this morning. —David Jacobs
B.R. government offices reopen Friday
With the worst of Isaac having blown through the Capital Region, Baton Rouge officials announced this morning they plan to reopen city-parish government offices Friday. The area saw relatively minor damage from the storm, mainly tree damage and power outages. It was not nearly as severe as when Hurricane Gustav devastated East Baton Rouge Parish four years ago, severely damaging the power grid, toppling trees and leaving some houses stripped of roofs and worse. Mayor Kip Holden and other officials are scheduled to provide an update on how Baton Rouge fared through Isaac during a midmorning press conference today. Read Daily Report PM today for a compilation of local updates.
Federal emergency declared in EBR as Isaac heads north
President Barack Obama has declared federal emergencies in areas of Louisiana and Mississippi hit hard by Isaac, in a move that should speed federal aid and recovery efforts to the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast. Obama signed the orders late Wednesday covering 35 parishes in Louisiana—including East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes—and 34 counties in Mississippi. Gov. Bobby Jindal had requested the emergency declaration. The White House says in a statement that the disaster declarations ordered authorities to expedite federal aid in areas affected by Isaac. The move makes federal funding available to state and local governments and certain nonprofit organizations for emergency work. Rainfall totals in some parts of the state are expected to be close to two feet before Isaac exits northward. The Coast Guard plans to begin assessing conditions on the Mississippi River today to determine when the river can reopen to shipping. The National Weather Service says Isaac should be a tropical depression by the time it reaches Shreveport later today. You can check out the latest National Weather Service update on Isaac here. Daily Report is continually updating a list of Isaac-related cancellations and closures, as well as providing emergency contact information. See the complete rundown here; and send any updates/additions to be considered for inclusion by email to email@example.com.