Isaac Heads for U.S. Gulf Coast, Thousands Told to Evacuate

Tropical Storm Isaac swirled into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, threatening to disrupt U.S. offshore oil and gas supplies and strengthen into a powerful hurricane that could make landfall near Louisiana almost seven years to the day after Katrina struck.

As Tropical Storm Isaac churned into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, South Florida managed to dodge the worst of it. But the fast-moving storm appeared poised to swell into a hurricane and hit land on Wednesday between the Florida Panhandle and New Orleans. Photo: Cayobo/Flickr

Tropical storm Isaac is expected to strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane and hit the Gulf Coast somewhere between Florida and Louisiana at midweek – on or near the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina – the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory.

The governors of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana declared states of emergency as Tropical Storm Isaac headed toward the northern Gulf Coast, according to LA Times. Thousands of people were told to evacuate in Louisiana and Alabama.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called for voluntary evacuations in 15 parishes. A mandatory evacuation was ordered for St. Charles Parish and for the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.

“I am urging everyone to take precautions now, monitor weather warnings, and be prepared for whatever Isaac may bring,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement.

State of emergency was declared in New Orleans, devastated when Hurricane Katrina swept over the city on August 29, 2005, killing more than 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars of damage along the coast.

“It is difficult to realize that to the day – seven years after Katrina – another hurricane is headed our way,” Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said.

“It is important for Mississippians to take this storm seriously and prepare for potential impact.”

Energy producers in the Gulf worked to shut down some of their operations ahead of in what could be the biggest test for U.S. energy installations since 2008, Reuters writes.

Forecasters are predicting a more westward track that could bring Isaac over the heart of the U.S. offshore oil patch, which produces about 23 percent of U.S. oil output and 7 percent of its natural gas.

London-based BP Plc, the biggest U.S. Gulf producer, said it was shutting production at all of its Gulf of Mexico oil and gas platforms and evacuating all workers on Sunday.

Issac’s westward track meant the worst of its weather would miss Tampa, where the Republican National Convention was expected to open its four-day meeting on Monday but official events were delayed until Tuesday because of the storm.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott earlier declared a state of emergency and urged delegates to the Republican National Convention to avoid flood-prone areas. Scott told a Sunday evening news conference that only minor damage had been reported so far.

Isaac is forecast to become a hurricane either late Monday or Tuesday. The NHC said Isaac was expected to eventually intensify to a Category 2 hurricane with “extremely dangerous” sustained winds of 105 miles per hour as it swept up the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Yahoo, in Haiti, Isaac added to the misery of more than 350,000 survivors of the 2010 earthquake still living in flimsy resettlement camps as water gushed into tents and corrugated plastic shacks ripped apart by the wind.

No deaths or injuries were reported in Cuba, which got off lightly when the storm crossed its eastern flank instead of raking up the length of the island as originally predicted.

In the Dominican Republic, officials said three people were missing, including the mayor of a town near Santo Domingo who was swept away as he tried to save another person from a flooded river.

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