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Isaac : Disaster declarations issued for Louisiana and Mississippi after Isaac

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama has declared federal emergencies in areas of Louisiana and Mississippi hit hard by Isaac, moving to speed federal aid and recovery efforts to the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast.

Obama signed the orders late Wednesday covering 35 parishes in Louisiana and 34 counties in Mississippi.

The White House said in a statement that the disaster declarations ordered authorities to expedite federal aid in areas affected by Isaac.

The move makes the federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain nonprofit organizations for emergency work in the stricken areas.

Isaac is drenching Louisiana and Mississippi but is weakening as it trudges roughly north over land and should lose its tropical storm status by Thursday night.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Isaac's wind strength should drop below 39 mph to become a tropical depression as the storm's center heads for Arkansas and Missouri on Friday.

Isaac's center bypassed New Orleans and its newly fortified levees as a hurricane Wednesday but flooded areas to the city's north and south, where people had to be evacuated or rescued. Isaac had top sustained winds of 45 mph early Thursday as its center moved over southern Louisiana.

It was still packing heavy rains that threatened lowland flooding through Friday in Louisiana, Mississippi, southwest Alabama and Arkansas.

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