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Tue August 28, 2012
Isaac, On The Verge Of Hurricane Strength, Forecast For Landfall Tonight
Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 9:13 pm
The Latest At 11:06 P.M. ET Little Change In Strength
The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Isaac will continue moving near or over the southeastern coast of Louisiana on Tuesday night, and move inland during the next day or so.
"Little change in strength is forecast tonight," it said at 10 p.m. CDT. "Slow weakening is expected after that."
As we reported earlier, widespread flooding was expected. Isaac was moving toward Baton Rouge, La.
Our original post and earlier updates continue:
Seven years ago tomorrow, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.
Today, the area is facing its first big test in the form of Hurricane Isaac. While the storms are not comparable — Katrina was a monster category 3 storm, whil Isaac is forecast to make landfall as a weak hurricane — the cyclone has triggered evacuations and an emergency declaration in Louisiana.
The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center still says that the central pressure of the storm has dropped and the winds around the center are picking up steam.
The latest forecast has the Isaac making landfall along the Mississippi or Southeast Louisiana coast as a hurricane with 80 mph winds.
We'll update this post throughout the day. So hit your refresh button to see the latest.
The Latest At 10 P.M. ET Isaac Headed For Baton Rouge
It appears Isaac is headed straight for Baton Rouge, La.
Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, told The Associated Press the hurricane's core would pass west of New Orleans and head for Baton Rouge. He said the storm would then weaken.
The Latest At 9:20 P.M. ET:
In its latest update, the National Hurricane Center says Isaac is moving northwest at around 8 mph.
"A NORTHWESTWARD MOTION AT A SLIGHTLY SLOWER SPEED IS EXPECTED OVER THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. ON THE FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE ISAAC WILL CONTINUE MOVING NEAR OR OVER THE SOUTHEASTERN COAST OF LOUISIANA OVER THE NEXT FEW HOURS...AND MOVE FARTHER INLAND OVER SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO."
The Category 1 Hurricane has maximum sustained winds nears 80 mph. The center warns of flooding in Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana, Alabama, south-central Louisiana, the Florida panhandle, Apalachee Bay and the remainder of Florida west coast.
In Biloxi, Miss., Shirley Eleutrius, who lives just two blocks from the Mississippi Sound, which is flooding the highway, tells NPR's Debbie Elliott that for now, she's staying put.
"We've lived through all kinds of storms," she says. "Just ride it out. Be honest with you nothing you can do but leave, you got to higher ground and that's wehre you stay."
Updates on the storm's impact on New Orleans can be found on the website of our member station WWNO.
The Latest At 8:10 P.M. ET:
The National Hurricane Center says the storm's center reached land at 6:45 p.m. (local time) in Plaquemines Parish, about 90 miles southeast of New Orleans with winds near 80 mph. The storm's impact is expected to be felt in New Orleans and beyond.
Here's more from the center's website:
"ISAAC MAKES LANDFALL IN EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA... ...STRONG WINDS AND A DANGEROUS STORM SURGE OCCURRING ALONG THE NORTHERN GULF COAST... ...U.S. Warnings in Effect..."
The Latest at 7:06 p.m. ET:
The center of Hurricane Issac should reach the southeastern Louisiana coast in the next few hours, the National Hurricane Center's latest update says.
Issac is moving northwest at 8 mph, the center said, adding that it would continue moving over the southeastern part of the state during the next day or so.
Here's more from the update:
"MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 80 MPH...130 KM/H...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. ISAAC IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE WIND SCALE. SOME SLIGHT STRENGTHENING IS POSSIBLE BEFORE ISAAC MAKES LANDFALL. GRADUAL WEAKENING IS EXPECTED AFTER LANDFALL OCCURS."
NPR's Debbie Elliott is reporting on the storm for our Newscast Unit. Here's what Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told her:
"This isn't just going to be a coastal storm, and the category of the storm doesn't always tell you what the impacts are going to be," he said. "Heavy rain and tropical force winds over large areas can be very disruptive, power outages, a lot of flooding. And we can't really forecast where that's going to happen, so we just need people to be aware of it and be ready."
The Latest at 5:10 p.m. ET:
-- The center of Hurricane Isaac is moving toward its expected landfall tonight at a rate of 8 miles per hour, and it is likely to strike the southeastern Louisiana coast as a category 1 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center's latest update. The service says the storm is "getting better organized" as it nears the coast, with maximum winds measured at 80 mph.
Currently moving northwest toward land, Isaac is about 30 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm is projecting hurricane-strength winds (75 mph and up) for a distance of 60 miles from its center, with the most powerful winds concentrated in the northeast and east, according to the hurricane center. Projections show the storm heading toward a spot just south of the mouth of the Mississippi.
-- In a televised speech from the White House's Diplomatic Room, President Obama urged residents to heed warnings from local officials.
"We're dealing with a big storm and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area," he said. "Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously."
-- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that 41 parishes have declared states of emergency and 7 parishes have issued mandatory evacuation orders.
-- President Obama issued an emergency declaration for some areas of Mississippi.
The Latest at 3:45 p.m. ET:
-- Isaac is now a category 1 hurricane. The National Hurricane Center reported on its Twitter feed that reconnaissance data gathered by hurricane hunters found maximum winds of 75 mph.
In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center said dry air pumping into the cyclone has kept it from intensifying further, and they are expecting it to make landfall with 80 mph winds. At this point, the Southeast Louisiana coast seems to be where the storm will make landfall.
Update at 3:56 p.m. ET. The Scene In Gulfport:
NPR's Russell Lewis sent this report from Gulfport, Miss.:
"It's cloudy and windy. The rains are starting and stopping here. Gas stations are beginning to run out of certain grades of fuel.
"There are dozens of power trucks lined up in a Walmart parking lot getting ready to roll to deal with possible power outages.
"Hotels here are very tight. There are no vacancies and it will be difficult for people to find rooms if they choose to evacuate."
Update at 3:349 p.m. ET. Rain, Wind Begin Miss., La.:
The first rain bands from Isaac have started making their way through Miss. and La. A quick glance at a Weather Underground radar map tells us that rain is extending from New Orleans to Pascagoula.
Some weather stations are reporting winds a little bit stronger than 40 mph.
Online, videos of the Gulf starting to make its way onto coastal roads is popping up. Here's one from Waveland, Miss.
Update at 1:22 p.m. ET. Not 'A Katrina-Type Event':
Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, said the area dodged bullet today. The city, he said, could have been facing a category 3 hurricane.
Still, he said, Isaac is "plenty big enough to cause a lot of hurt."
"We are not expecting a Katrina type event," Landrieu said. "That is not to say that we will not see flooding."
Update at 12:44 p.m. ET. A Slow Moving Storm:
During a televised press conference, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said this is a slow moving storm and some areas of his state could face sustained tropical storm force winds for 24 to 36 hours.
Jindal said the problem with this storm, however, will likely be flooding: As it lumbers through the area it will dump incredible amounts of rain that "will result in localized flooding."
Already, Jindal said, 41 parishes have declared states of emergency and 7 parishes have issued mandatory evacuation orders.
But the state government is prepared. They have aircrafts and boats standing by to lead rescue efforts if needed, Jindal said.
Update at 12:29 p.m. ET. Now A Hurricane:
The National Hurricane Center tweets:
Update at 11:00 a.m. ET. Still A Tropical Storm:
In its 11 a.m. advisory, the Hurricane Center has some good news: Top winds for Isaac remain at 70 mph.
The center has also lowered its intensity forecast, now saying it will make landfall with top winds of 80 mph, making Isaac a minimal category 1 hurricane.
The center reports:
"Isaac is a large tropical cyclone. A dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall and strong winds extend well away from the center and are expected to affect a large portion of the northern gulf coast.
"For this reason, it is important not to focus on the exact center location. The threat of heavy rainfall and flooding is also expected to spread inland over the lower mississippi valley region during the next few days."
Update at 10:12 a.m. ET. Now Not The Time 'To Tempt Fate':
In a short statement from the White House, President Obama said that federal officials have been on the ground in places impacted and about to be affected by Tropical Storm Isaac for more than week.
Obama said the federal government is ready to respond and that he has signed an emergency declaration for Louisiana so it could quickly get the help it needs.
Obama added that people in the path of the storm should heed warnings from their local officials.
"Now is not the time to tempt fate," Obama said. "You need to take this seriously."
Update at 7:46 a.m. ET. Storm Surge Threat:
As The New York Times reports, the danger of this storm may not be the winds but the storm surge, or the wall of water the storm is pushing toward land as it rumbles across the Gulf of Mexico.
The Times adds:
"Officials encouraged those in low-lying areas to leave, warning of 12-foot storm surges along a broad swath of the coast and days of nonstop rainfall, in some places possibly adding up to 20 inches of water.
"'A slow-moving, large system poses a lot of problems,' Rick Knapp, the director of the National Hurricane Center, said in a conference call with reporters, describing the risks as 'life-threatening, potentially.'"
Update at 7:45 a.m. ET. New Orleans Is Prepared:
The storm is of course causing great concern because it was seven years ago tomorrow that Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans.
As we reported, this is not the monster storm Katrina was and the levees and flood walls were rebuilt after Katrina.
The New Orleans Times Picayune reports today that local officials are expressing nothing but confidence in the $15 billion system built to withstand a category 3 hurricane.