NEW ORLEANS, La. (CBS / AP) — — Newly downgraded Tropical Storm Isaac plodded its way across Louisiana on Wednesday, inundating parts of a mostly rural area southeast of New Orleans with drenching rains and fierce winds.

Isaac had lost some of its strength with top sustained winds of 70 mph, just below the hurricane threshold of 74 mph. But forecasters warned there were still life-threatening hazards from the storm surge and inland flooding because Isaac was moving across the state at only 5 mph on Wednesday night — which is about the pace of a brisk walk.

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In hard-hit Plaquemines Parish, officials rescued dozens of people by boat after they became stranded when their homes were inundated by severe flooding after the storm pushed water over the top of a levee. Officials said they were going to puncture a hole in the levee, but they first had to wait for the winds to die down.

Authorities feared more could need help after slashing rain and wind knocked out power to more than 700,000 households.

City officials imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in New Orleans because of the downed power lines and generally unsafe conditions and police reported few problems with looting.

As Isaac swamped the nation’s oil and gas hub along the Gulf Coast, it was also delivering sharply higher pump prices to parts of the deep south and midwest regions. But experts said the West Coast was unlikely to feel any impact from the storm.

Because California uses its own unique gasoline blends that are designed to fight air pollution, most of the fuel comes from refineries within the state – not from the Gulf Coast. No pipelines connect California to the Gulf.

“We’re an island unto ourselves,” Rob Schlichting, spokesman for the California Energy Commission told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday.

However, analysts noted that Californians had already seen significant gas price hikes prior to the hurricane because of the recent fire at Chervon’s Richmond refinery that curtailed a significant amount of West Coast crude oil production.

(Copyright 2012 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)


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