NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans began its cleanup effort in earnest Friday with more than 260,000 homes and business remaining without power, a reminder of Hurricane Isaac’s power in spite of its weak Category 1 status at landfall.
With flood waters still covering LaPlace and parts of eastern Orleans Parish, power was the least of some residents’ worries.
Schools in St. John Parish are closed through Sept. 7 and a portion of Interstate-10 in LaPlace remained under water, closing it to traffic until further notice.
And the Coast Guard was busy dropping off supplies by helicopter to a hotel cut off by flood waters.
At the invitation of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited Lafitte, a town in Jefferson Parish battered by storm surge for house Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
President Barack Obama was scheduled to visit the region on Monday.
Still, in New Orleans, life began to return to normal with businesses reopening and the annual Southern Decadence festival in full force.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu cautioned, however, that there was a long way to go before the city was back to full functionality.
“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” Landrieu said. “We are not finished in the city of New Orleans. We have a lot of work to do. I continue against very difficult odds to urge caution and common sense.
“Let that please be the order of the day so that we can get through this emergency without loss of life and limiting the amount of loss of property that many of us have sustained already.”
The city had three pods with ice, water and food set up in the Bywater, on the Westbank and in New Orleans East. Landrieu said the longer electricity stays out, the more the pods will be replenished.
At 5 p.m. Friday, Entergy’s website was still reporting 471,500-plus still without power. Of that total, more than half were from Orleans (134,394) and Jefferson (139,881) parishes.
Entergy-New Orleans CEO Charles Rice said his company was working as quickly as possible to restore power with 1,100 additional crew from outside the state.
“We recognize that you guys have been out,” Rice said. “Trust me, we feel your pain. We are motivated to return service as soon as possible. There is nothing in it for us to not have you in power. The only way we make money is if the meters are running. We want the meters to turn. We want you to have power.”
Officials lifted a dusk-to-dawn curfew Thursday night and officials said no major problems resulted from the decision.
Six people were arrested for drunk driving, New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said. Additionally, 40 people have been arrested for looting, caught either in the act or after-the-fact when residents called in to alert NOPD.
Garbage service was set to restart on Saturday and nearly 250 city workers with Park and Parkways were cleaning up roadways and sidewalks. City officials were asking those clearing debris from their yards to package the detritus for easy pickup.
Flood gates were still closed Friday morning and the pump stations were still running, Corps of Engineers Col. Edward Fleming said. The Corps was still set to begin the assessment phase, “walking, driving, flying over the entire levee system, gates, floodwalls, structures (and) pump stations looking for damage, if any,” Fleming said.
But while focus was on cleanup in New Orleans, Landrieu recognized that areas outside of the federal flood protection system were in a different phase.
“We have people that live outside of the levee protection area that got hurt very badly and have reported damage in excess of what they had during Katrina,” he said, before adding later, “We will be there for them. I want to assure the people of Lake Catherine, Irish Bayou, Fort Pike and Venetian Isles that we’re focused on your recovery.”