GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - Signs of life returned to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Thursday as curfews were lifted and some businesses and roads reopened, but many residents still couldn't make it home because of flooding in low lying areas and along rivers.
In north Waveland, Jeff Delle was airing his truck tire on Highway 603 as his brother, Stanley, waded through the parking lot of a flooded gas station to get to his van.
Jeff Dale said the water began rising in his neighborhood in the Shoreline Park community on Tuesday and nearly caught fire to his house, which is on stilts, when the water reached the electrical meter box. He took his family to a house they are building further north in Kiln.
"I'm just waiting for the water to go down so I can go in and see what I need to clean up," he said.
Stanley Delle, who lives near his brother, said he waited for the water to go down some then waded through chest deep water Thursday morning to get to the highway.
He said Isaac has been a long ordeal.
"I'm glad it's trying to go away, it's been here a long time," he said.
But he's worried the flooding could persist as the tide comes in later in the day.
Nearby a steady flow of cars headed south on 603, the main highway to the cities of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, which had been closed during the storm.
Bands of intermittent rain still pelted the soggy coast and there was gusting wind, but conditions had improved since the height of the storm.
A tow truck driver was killed Thursday morning when a tree fell on his truck in Picayune, Miss., just across the state line from Louisiana. Authorities said Isaac was causing heavy rain and strong winds at the time. They did not release the man's name.
Isaac was expected to dump heavy rain on much of central and south Mississippi on Thursday as the storm system meandered slowly northward Thursday on a path toward Arkansas.
Many roads remained impassable in some rural and low-lying areas. The Mississippi Department of Transportation reported some road closings due to downed trees and power lines.
President Obama declared federal emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi. The declarations free up federal aid for affected areas.
Many counties in central and south Mississippi were under a tornado watch until 4 p.m. Flash-flood watches also were issued by the National Weather Service.
Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said Interstate 59 in Pearl River County is covered by water 6 inches deep at its crossing over the Wolf River, and waters were rising just before 7 a.m. Thursday. Creeks in the county aren't forecast to crest until early Friday morning, meaning flooding is likely to worsen throughout the day Thursday. County officials rescued four people from the waters overnight, Manley said.
He said high winds have also damaged some structures in the county, including ripping a roof off a mobile home in the Pine Grove community.
In Jackson County, rising waters were driving dozens of people from their homes in the Kreole community on the eastern edge of Moss Point.
Monica Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said authorities evacuated people from the area Thursday morning. She said some people were also being rescued in areas of Pascagoula south of U.S. 90 and that there are also reports of rising flood waters in Escatawpa.
Cooper said residents are telling authorities that some houses have flooded, although it's unclear how many at this point.
There are also reports of high winds associated with a tornado warning in Pascagoula. City Councilman Frank Corder said at least two homes were damaged. There have been no reports of injuries.
Utility crews were back out Thursday working to restore power to more than 90,000 customers in south and central Mississippi. Many utility crews were called in Wednesday night after winds from Isaac got too strong.
Entergy officials say there were 4,789 customers without power and 651,063 outages in Entergy's four-state area of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
The Electrical Power Association of Mississippi has the most customers without power - some 79,500 customers, mostly in coastal and southwestern counties.
Mississippi Power Co. was reporting about 10,000 customers without power, with the majority of those outages being reported in Harrison County.
"Mississippi Power line crews have been working to restore power in areas deemed safe for the last 48 hours," said Mississippi Power Storm Director Randall Pinkston. "On Thursday, they'll be joined by reinforcements from Georgia Power and other utilities. These crews are experienced in emergency storm restoration."
Mississippi Power serves 23 mostly southeastern Mississippi counties.
Mike Efferson, a meteorologist in the Slidell, La., office of the National Weather Service, said tropical storm force winds could continue past midnight into early Thursday morning. Weather forecasters are also predicting as many as 11 inches of rain by Monday for parts of Mississippi.
In Pascagoula, Doug Adams, spokesman for the Pascagoula Police Department said, "A large portion of Pascagoula is flooded, roads that don't usually have water on them are covered and water is deeper in areas that are prone to flooding."
Adams said water has blocked U.S. Highway 90 at Market Street, in the heart of the traffic area of downtown.
Jeff Amy and Holbrook Mohr were reporting from south Mississippi.
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