Lower Missisippi Reopened As Storm Heads North

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PLAQUEMINES PARISH, Louisiana (CNN) — The U.S. Coast Guard says it has fully reopened the Lower Mississippi River — an area that stretches from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico — shortly after Hurricane Issac barreled through the region, leaving costly damage in its wake.

The channel was opened at 10 p.m. Friday, after it had been partially opened for large vessels the evening before, the Coast Guard reported.

“The Mississippi River system is a vital part of the U.S. economy, so we are very pleased we can open the river to those who depend on it,” said Capt. Peter Gautier.

Coast Guard teams are continuing to monitor the area and respond to a “number of ship groundings and barge strandings along the riverbank caused by the river surge and high winds of the storm.”

The storm also brought heavy flooding and prompted power outages across the region.

Mississippi’s Homochitto National Forest also reported closures in several areas as a result of flooding brought on by the storm.

“Safety remains and is always a high priority for us,” said Bruce Prud’homme, Homochitto District Ranger. “Closing these areas is necessary for public safety.”

On Friday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had canceled a trip to Cleveland would instead head Monday to Louisiana.

Obama will meet officials dealing with Isaac’s impact and “making sure that unmet needs are being met and that the federal response led by FEMA is helping citizens in the affected areas and the state and local officials who are responding to the storm,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

His November rival, Mitt Romney, got a close-up view Friday of the devastation when he traveled to Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish, where flooding and downed trees were strewn about the area.

The GOP presidential nominee joined Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. David Vitter, both fellow Republicans, during the trip and said it was intended “to learn and obviously to draw some attention to what’s going (on) here… so that people around the country know that people down here need help.”

Isaac made landfall on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which overwhelmed levees and contributed to nearly 1,800 deaths.

After slamming into the United States as a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday, Isaac weakened considerably but still dumped ample rain as it headed north through Arkansas and toward Missouri.

With 25 mph sustained winds, the tropical depression moved Friday night into the Middle Mississippi River Valley, where it was expected to dump several more inches of rain, the National Weather Service said.

By Saturday night, it will likely affect the Ohio River Valley.

Already, Isaac caused at least 19 deaths in Haiti while churning north from the Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico and then at least another four in Louisiana and Mississippi.

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