CHAUVIN, La. (AP/WAOK) — Isaac has become a hurricane that could flood the coasts of four states with storm surge and heavy rains on its way to New Orleans.
Residents are hunkered down behind levees fortified after Katrina struck the city seven years ago this week.
Shelters are open for those who chose to stay or missed the chance to get away before the outer bands of the large storm blow ashore ahead of a forecast landfall in southeast Louisiana tonight or early tomorrow. However, with the exception of some low-lying areas, officials have not ordered mass evacuations.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Isaac became a Category 1 hurricane today with winds of 75 mph.
President Barack Obama said Gulf Coast residents should listen to local authorities and follow their directions as Isaac approached.
“Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously,” Obama said.
Forecasters warned that Isaac was a large storm whose effects could reach out 200 miles from its center. Water may be worse than wind because the storm could push walls of water while dumping rain to flood the low-lying coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
Isaac’s track is forecast to bring it to New Orleans seven years after Katrina hit as a much stronger storm on Aug. 29, 2005.
This time, federal officials say the updated levees around the city are equipped to handle storms stronger than Isaac. The Army Corps of Engineers was given about $14 billion to improve flood defenses, and most of the work has been completed. The levees surrounding New Orleans are designed to withstand far more than the forecast 12-foot surge. And the city’s flood control system can pump out an inch of water per hour for the first hour, and a half-inch of water each hour after that.
Hurricane Isaac is expected to make landfall in Louisiana on the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.