NEW ORLEANS (AFP) - Hurricane Isaac battered New Orleans on Wednesday, flooding homes and driving stormy waters over the top of at least one levee, seven years to the day after Katrina devastated the city.

Isaac, packing vicious winds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour and rolling slowly over Louisiana, dumped huge quantities of rain on the renowned US jazz city as residents cowered in their homes.

More than half a million people were left without power after the hurricane snapped utility poles and downed power lines.

The National Hurricane Center said the category one storm had forced a “dangerous storm surge” onto the northern Gulf Coast, with waters mounting to 11 feet (three meters) in Louisiana and patches of coastal flooding. Heavy rains are likely to continue throughout Wednesday, it said.

Storm-driven waters spilled over a levee south of New Orleans and inundated a residential area that had been ordered evacuated, a local official said.

The flooding in Plaquemines Parish, part of a tongue of land extending into the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans, saw water deluge over levees on the east bank of that strip.

Even a relatively high-lying area that had never flooded in a hurricane is now under five feet (1.5 meters) of water, Nungesser told National Public Radio.

Nungesser said damage from Isaac in some areas is worse than that wrought by Katrina. He cited his home as an example. “I stopped there to change clothes earlier. Part of my roof is missing. The back wall has moved and the water is being pushed through the bricks into the house,” he said.

Nungesser added: “I don’t know who is calling this a category one but this is no category one.”