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Isidore soaks New Orleans

A man pulls a boat with his belongings in New Orleans.
A man pulls a boat with his belongings in New Orleans.

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After causing weeks of rain and severe weather, Tropical Storm Isidore finally makes landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana. CNN's John Zarrella reports (September 26)
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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Isidore, a sprawling system of wind and rain, rolled northward over New Orleans early Thursday, flinging rain storms north and east as far as 345 miles from its center. (Full storm coverage)

Officials reported widespread flooding, saying rain totals were so heavy that pumps pumping water over the levies protecting the city were not able to keep up.

"Tides are probably 4 to 6 feet above normal at the coast," said Frank Revitte, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service forecast office in New Orleans, "and 3 to 4 feet above normal on Lake Pontchatrain" immediately north of New Orleans.

The early word from southeastern Louisiana was largely positive, according to the state Office of Emergency Preparedness.

"We have talked to all the parishes in the southeastern part of the state," said Jim Bridges, a spokesman for the preparedness office. "It's stilling raining ... flooded streets ... nothing special. We haven't heard anything all that terrible."

Many restaurants and bars in New Orleans' French Quarter remained open late Wednesday afternoon. One boarded up window of an oyster bar had this message: "We don't run, we party. Go away, Isidore!" The city, which lies below sea-level, is prone to flooding.

A major highway in the city was closed in both directions because much of it is underwater. New Orleans Police Capt. Marlin DeFellow told CNN that Interstate 10, which runs through the city, was closed after rising water quickly stranded several cars. No injuries were reported.

Mayor Ray Nagin closed city hall at noon Wednesday and ordered all non-essential employees to stay home until further notice. He urged business-owners to do the same.

The Orleans Levee Board closed all the flood gates in and around the city of New Orleans by late Wednesday afternoon to head off the expected high waters, she added.

The storm also shut down the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, as well as the nearby aquarium, IMAX and nature center until Friday. Zookeepers moved a pair of rare Chinese alligators indoors from their outdoor enclosure Wednesday, and the zoo's "lions, tigers, bears and other dangerous animals" were put in their cement-block style nighthouses to protect them from the storm, said zoo spokeswoman Sarah Burnette.

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