Hurricane Juan wobbled ashore and stalled again today, knocking down a third oil rig as its heavy rain and 85-mph winds whipped offshore waves 20 feet high and drove tides up to 10 feet above normal.
At least five people were dead and three were missing, including those believed trapped in a drilling rig that toppled in a marsh. About 160 people have been rescued from drilling rigs and boats in the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent waters over three days, the Coast Guard said.
Juan's winds diminished to 65 mph this afternoon. The National Weather Service downgraded it to a tropical storm.
New Orleans and its suburbs were hit by flooding, with as much as 3 feet of water reported. The hardest hit areas were on the west bank of the Mississippi River.
"It's the most water we've had in 35 to 40 years," said Civil Defense spokesman Don Gary in low-lying Terrebonne Parish, on the coast southwest of New Orleans.
Displaced snakes, including water moccasins, and balls of stinging fire ants floated along some flooded streets.
Heavy bands of rain extended from the gulf south of Mobile, Ala., to Jackson, Miss., and as far east as Florida.
Tornadoes spun out of the rain clouds at Laurel, Miss.; Orange Beach, Ala., and Calloway, Fla., a suburb of Panama City. Streets were flooded in Jacksonville, on the Atlantic coast, and southeastern Texas reported almost 7.25 inches of rain since Sunday.
Divers cut holes in the steel hull of a jackup drilling rig that toppled before dawn in a marsh near Hopedale, south of New Orleans.
"We are told that there were four men aboard, and the rig master is the only one who escaped," Coast Guard Petty Officer Stacey Jaudon said. "He got out, waved down a vessel and told them that he believed three men were trapped inside the rig."
A wind surfer was unaccounted for at Lake Pontchartrain.
In Guerydan, a city employe was electrocuted while disconnecting a transformer in an area of power outages. Other storm-related deaths were a crewman who drowned in an oil-rig evacuation, a man electrocuted by a submerged power line and another who fell from his boat and drowned.
In the Pacific, meanwhile, Hurricane Nele, which threatened the Hawaiian Islands over the weekend, was downgraded to a tropical storm today but later bounced back to hurricane status. Nele is not near populated areas, however.