What was once Tropical Storm Isidore is drenching much of the southern United States as it continues on a northerly path after flooding vast stretches from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. Meanwhile, a massive clean-up effort has begun in U.S. coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico.

Tim Burgess, who lives along the shores of Lake Ponchartrain near New Orleans, Louisiana, sweeps water out the front door of his home. Mr. Burgess went to a shelter Wednesday in advance of Tropical Storm Isidore. He returned a day later to find the ground level of his home a virtual swimming pool and most of his belongings in shambles. He said the damage is far worse than he had imagined. "I did not quite know what to expect. [The storm] seemed a lot calmer, it always does when you are away from the lake. But I was surprised. I was definitely surprised," he said.

Isidore came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico early Thursday, unleashing near-hurricane force winds, fierce storm surges and as much as 40-centimeters of rain. The storm spawned tornadoes, knocked down trees, overwhelmed levees, turned streets and parking lots into mini-lakes, and left hundreds of thousands without power.

Isidore, now a tropical depression, is continuing northward with weaker winds. But weather forecaster say the storm continues to dump heavy rains that could result in life-threatening flood conditions.

Meanwhile, clean-up and damage assessment efforts along the U.S. Gulf coast are just beginning. Initial estimates show Isidore to be far less costly than other storms that have struck the United States in recent years, most notably Hurricane Andrew, which caused $18 billion of damage in 1992. But that is little consolation to Tim Burgess and others who face a grueling task in the days and weeks ahead.