By Rene Lynch, Los Angeles Times –
Isaac is now barreling toward New Orleans, slated to make landfall late Tuesday or Wednesday on the Gulf Coast. But the name on many people’s minds is Katrina, which devastated the same area almost seven years ago to the day.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, urging thousands to evacuate. Isaac is expected to swell in strength to a Category 1 or 2 hurricane by the time it reaches the coastline, and has the potential to cause massive flooding and wind damage.
That said, the unpredictable storm does not appear to be anywhere near as powerful as Hurricane Katrina. That storm, which at one point was tagged as a Category 5 hurricane, devastated the Gulf Coast when it made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005.
So it is Katrina that is in the backs of everyone’s minds as preparations for Isaac get under way. Some people who lived through Katrina may feel prepared to bear the brunt of Isaac, but many are unwilling to take chances.
The National Hurricane Center’s most recent update says Isaac “poses significant storm surge threat to the Northern Gulf Coast” and is expected to bring sustained winds of up to 65 mph in addition to plenty of rain.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the center said, underscoring the hurricane threat warnings that remain in effect for the region, including the New Orleans metropolitan area.
In Louisiana, the 53,000 residents of St. Charles Parish near New Orleans were told to leave ahead of the storm, according to the Associated Press. Louisiana state police were prepared to activate a “contraflow,” temporarily reversing some highways to help motorists speed a retreat from the storm, according to NOLA.com, whose coverage of the pending storm includes this headline: “Tropical Storm Isaac torments the Louisiana Coast.”
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley also declared states of emergency and urged residents to get ready, according to the Associated Press.
Isaac did little permanent damage to South Florida as it swept by this weekend, according to The Miami Herald. But it led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights into Miami International Airport, and left nearly 65,000 customers struggling with power outages. Portions of the area also remain under flood watch.
Meanwhile, Florida residents are now focused on the Panhandle region of the state, which could feel Isaac’s fury when the storm makes landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday, the newspaper reported.
Assuming that Isaac does not swell further in intensity, it’s the rain and the potential flooding that are most worrying. Southern Mississippi, for example, was braced for as much as 15 inches of rain.
“That becomes a terrible concern for us,” Rupert Lacy, director of Harrison County’s Emergency Management Agency, told the Sun Herald newspaper in Gulfport, Miss. “If that rain hits all of Harrison County, that means we are going to have inland flooding. Roads and areas like that are going to be impassable.”
Isaac has forced the Republican National Convention to truncate its plans: The convention was scheduled to get under way Monday in Tampa, Fla. Now, the convention will make do with a three-day schedule.