"They used a flashlight inside the house as a signaling device, which made all the difference in locating them effectively," Lt. Cmdr. Jorge Porto said.

Crews intentionally breached a levee that was strained by Isaac's floodwaters in southeast Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish, which is outside the federal levee system. At the same time, water at a dam farther north in Mississippi was released in an effort to prevent flooding there.

Since the storm arrived in the U.S., the first two fatalities were a tow truck driver hit by a tree that fell on his vehicle in Picayune, Miss., and a man who fell from a tree while helping friends move a vehicle. Deputies did not know why he climbed the tree.

Although New Orleans' bigger, stronger levee system easily handled the deluge from Isaac, rural areas beyond the city's fortifications had few defenses.

Isaac "has reinforced for us once again just how vulnerable these critical areas are," said Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. "We must re-engage the Corps of Engineers on this."

More than 900,000 homes and businesses around the state -- about 47 percent of all customers -- were without power Thursday. Utility company Entergy said that included about 157,000 in New Orleans.

New Orleans' biggest problems seemed to be downed power lines, scattered tree limbs and minor flooding.

In Mississippi, several coastal communities struggled with all the extra water, including Pascagoula, where a large portion of the city flooded and water blocked downtown intersections.

High water also prevented more than 800 people from returning to their homes in Bay St. Louis, a small town that lost most of its business district to Katrina's storm surge.

Even though Isaac was weaker, Mayor Les Fillingame said, "every storm is somebody's Katrina, regardless of the intensity."

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