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New Orleans imposes dusk-to-dawn curfew; Isaac claims man's life

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NEW ORLEANS - Officials in New Orleans said they’re imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew as Hurricane Isaac continues to lash the city on the seventh anniversary of Katrina.

Police cars have been patrolling the nearly empty streets since Isaac began bringing fierce winds and heavy rains to the city Tuesday night. The curfew was set to start Wednesday night and will last until further notice.

Rescuers in boats and trucks plucked a handful of people who became stranded by floodwaters in thinly populated areas of southeast Louisiana. Authorities feared many more could need help after a night of slashing rain and fierce winds that knocked out power to more than 600,000 households and businesses.

In what has been confirmed the first death attributed to Isaac, Vermilon Parish Sheriff Mike Couvillon said a 36-year-old man had gone to help two friends move a vehicle from under a tree on Tuesday and fell to his death after climbing 18 feet up the tree.

The accident happened shortly before Isaac made landfall to the east on the Louisiana coast.

WFTV reporter Berndt Petersen is in New Orleans as Isaac continues to push flood waters over a rural levee south of the city, where authorities believe some people may be trapped.

Isaac began pushing water over a rural Louisiana levee and stranding some people in homes and cars as the storm spun into a newly fortified New Orleans exactly seven years after Katrina.
 
Although Isaac was much weaker than the 2005 hurricane that crippled the city, the threat of dangerous storm surges and flooding from heavy rain was expected to last all day and into the night as the immense comma-shaped storm crawled across Louisiana.
 
Army Corps spokeswoman Rachel Rodi said the city's bigger, stronger levees were withstanding the assault.
 
"The system is performing as intended, as we expected," she said. "We don't see any issues with the hurricane system at this point."
 
There were initial problems with pumps not working at the 17th Street Canal, the site of a breach on the day Katrina struck, but those pumps had been fixed, Rodi said.
 
Rescuers in boats and trucks plucked a handful of people who became stranded by floodwaters in thinly populated areas of southeast Louisiana. Authorities feared many more could need help after a night of slashing rain and fierce winds that knocked out power to more than 500,000 people.

Petersen said conditions were worsening in New Orleans, where lakes look like oceans.

"I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes. That's what it looks like when a hurricane hits Florida's Atlantic coast. It looks like the ocean out there," said Peterson.

While many residents stayed put, evacuations were ordered in low-lying areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, where officials ordered the closure of the state's 12 shorefront casinos.

The National Hurricane Center said gusts could reach about 100 mph at times, especially at higher levels, which could damage high-rise buildings in New Orleans.

After Hurricane Katrina, $14 billion was poured into stronger levees and floodgates.

Officials said New Orleans' flood protections system is holding up so far as Isaac storms through the area.