Tropical Storm Isaac on path towards New Orleans
Published Monday, August 27, 2012 6:23AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 27, 2012 11:29PM EDT
Tropical Storm Isaac is picking up steam with a projected path directly towards New Orleans, according to forecasters.
The latest update by the U.S. National Hurricane Center shows Isaac is approaching the Mississippi River with winds of up to 110 kilometres per hour.
Forecasters say the tropical storm threatens to develop into a hurricane before making landfall somewhere between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle as early as Monday night. Hurricane warnings continue to blanket part of the northern Gulf Coast from east of Morgan City, La. to the Alabama-Florida border.
U.S. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on Monday as the Gulf Coast state prepares for Isaac.
The declaration makes federal funding available for emergencies related to the storm.
The White House said Obama also spoke to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Both Alabama and Mississippi have declared a state of emergency.
The National Hurricane Center predicts that Isaac will move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico Monday night and hit the northern Gulf Coast by late Tuesday.
Forecasters initially predicted that Isaac would hit land as a Category 2 hurricane, but have since altered that outlook, saying the storm was more likely to develop into a Category 1.
On the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, a Category 1 hurricane packs winds up to 153 km/h, while a Category 2 hurricane’s winds clock in at up to 177 km/h.
Even as a tropical storm, Isaac has caused chaos on land, destroying infrastructure and causing at least 19 deaths when it swept over Haiti last weekend.
Some of the Haitian victims died under crumbling homes, while another two people died in the Dominican Republic after being swept away by moving water.
Isaac barrelled past the Florida Keys on Sunday, slamming the coastline with winds close to 100 km/h. The violent weather prompted organizers to delay the Republican Convention in Tampa, which is now scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
The storm threat also halted work on some oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The paused operations account for 24 per cent of daily oil production in the U.S. part of the Gulf.
‘Katrina deja vu’ in Louisiana
But forecasters are currently keeping their eyes fixed on Louisiana, where it’s possible that Isaac could make landfall as a hurricane on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Wednesday.
Tens of thousands of residents living in low lying parishes near New Orleans have been asked to evacuate.
New Orleans, which was swamped by Katrina in 2005, isn’t under an evacuation order.
“Their guideline is that if a Category 3 hurricane is approaching and is going to pass within a certain number of miles of the city then they will order an evacuation,” the Associated Press’ Brian Schwaner told CTV’s Canada AM from New Orleans on Monday.
That hasn’t stopped some residents from temporarily moving further inland. Others have cleared out shelves at grocery stores and stocked up on gasoline.
“I think there is some Katrina deja vu,” said Schwaner. “No one will ever take it for granted anymore when a hurricane is coming, no matter what its strength is.”
Similar precautions were being taken further down the coast in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Shelves were close to bare as residents looked for last-minute supplies at a 24-hour Walmart on Monday morning, reported NBC News’ Danielle Leigh. Others purchased lumber and sandbags.
“People (were) gathering things like water so that they wouldn’t be caught off guard if they did lose power and needed to survive for a couple days without the comforts we are used to.”
With files from The Associated Press