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New Orleans Imposes Dusk-To-Dawn Curfew


Just to keep us up to date here on Hurricane Isaac, it's become a tropical storm and forecasters expect to downgrade it to a tropical depression by this evening. That is small comfort, though, to people facing the storm's strong winds and heavy rains. States as far north as Ohio could feel Isaac's effects.


Though the hurricane was weaker than other storms, Gulf Coast residents found it strong enough, especially in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, located on this piece of land that juts out into the Gulf of Mexico. Water washed over a locally built levee there and dozens of people had to be rescued.

INSKEEP: In New Orleans, the levee system, updated after Hurricane Katrina, held up. But now this post-hurricane period poses new threats, from downed power lines to looters. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports from New Orleans.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: From the beginning, Isaac was more than just another Category 1 hurricane. For the people of New Orleans, the fact that it hit the city just one day before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was a bitter reminder of what they'd been through in the last seven years. Here's how Mayor Mitch Landrieu put it at a press conference yesterday.

MITCH LANDRIEU: Our lives in this area of the country are defined by before Katrina and after Katrina. It has forever scarred out lives, changed our lives and has redirected the way we do many, many, many things.

JOYCE: One of the many things learned from Katrina was that order is hard to keep after a disaster. Looting followed Katrina. Police cracked down hard - in some cases too hard. The city government got a black eye. During a press conference with a phalanx of uniformed police, National Guard and city officials behind him, the mayor said he was taking no chances this time.

LANDRIEU: Today it's going to begin. It'll be a curfew from dusk to dawn and it will stay in effect until otherwise notified.

JOYCE: As of Wednesday afternoon, police said they'd only apprehended a few alleged looters. The district attorney, Leon Cannizzaro, appealed to people's better instincts, while the mayor followed with a big stick warning.

LEON CANNIZZARO: I hope that many of the individuals who decide to - who don't have, I guess, enough sense to stay out of the rain, will at least not go out and hurt other individuals. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

LANDRIEU: I'll make it really simple: if you loot, you get in an orange suit.

JOYCE: While authorities are wary of how some people may behave, they were happy with the way the levees performed. Katrina had given the Army Corps of Engineers a black eye too. Its levees failed disastrously seven years ago. Since then, the Corps has poured upwards of $14 billion into strengthening the levee system that keeps the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain out of New Orleans. Colonel Ed Fleming of the Army Corps said its so-called risk reduction system so far has beaten back Isaac.

COLONEL ED FLEMING: The system is in good shape. The system has not been challenged. We've been tested but we are not reporting any deficiencies anywhere across the risk reduction system that we've done here post-Katrina.

JOYCE: Fleming and the mayor emphasized that even as they bid Isaac a welcome goodbye, there's still plenty of rain and surge left behind to trouble the city. Power is out in many places and downed power lines pose a threat. Yes, it was bad, but for a town traumatized by Katrina, the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, Isaac gave the city a chance to prove its mettle. Christopher Joyce, NPR News, New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.