Isaac Makes Landfall in Louisiana, New Orleans Threatened

Hurricane Isaac lashed southern Louisiana with high winds and heavy rains on Wednesday and was set for a late-morning arrival in New Orleans, seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Isaac, a massive storm spanning nearly 200 miles from its center, made landfall at about 6:45 p.m. near the mouth of the Mississippi River. But it was zeroing in on New Orleans, about 75 miles to the northwest, turning streets famous for all-hours celebrations into ghost boulevards. Photo: valeriap/Flickr

Hurricane Isaac spun into the southern Louisiana coast late Tuesday, sending floodwaters surging and unleashing fierce winds as residents hunkered down behind boarded-up windows.

Though not as powerful as Katrina, Isaac threatens to flood the coasts of four states with storm surge and heavy rains on its way to New Orleans.

Accordng to The Huff Post, New Orleans calmly waited out another storm on the eve of Hurricane Katrina’s seventh anniversary, hoping the city’s strengthened levees will hold.

While many residents stayed put, evacuations were ordered in low-lying areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, where officials closed 12 shorefront casinos. By late Tuesday, more than 200,000 homes and businesses had lost power.

The National Hurricane Center warned Tuesday that Isaac and its 80 mph (130kph) winds were producing dangerous storm surges, and that flooding from heavy rains was expected.

Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, said Isaac’s core would pass west of New Orleans with winds close to 80 mph and head for Baton Rouge.

“On this course, the hurricane will gradually weaken,” Rappaport said Tuesday night from the Miami-based center.

Reuters reports that officials from the mayor of New Orleans to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, to U.S. President Barack Obama, have scrambled to get ahead of the storm’s impact, mindful of the chaos and botched relief efforts in the wake of Katrina.

“We don’t expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category 1 storm that can kill you,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, urging people to use common sense and to stay off any streets that may flood.

President Obama urged residents to take heed warnings and take cover, saying that now was “not the time to tempt fate.” He issued emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi earlier this week.

Obama promised that Americans will help each other recover, “no matter what this storm brings.”

“When disaster strikes, we’re not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first,” Obama said at a campaign rally at Iowa State University. “We’re one family. We help our neighbors in need.”

Hurricane Isaac’s arrival on the anniversary of Katrina cast a spotlight on the enduring struggle of the iconic American city, its residents and its distinctive culture.

After Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers built a $14.5 billion defense system of walls, floodgates, levees and pumps designed to protect the city from heavy tidal surges.

Isaac promised to test the levee system bolstered after the catastrophic failures during Hurricane Katrina. But in a city that has already weathered Hurricane Gustav in 2008, calm prevailed.

“I was here for Hurricane Katrina, so I feel I’ve seen the worst. This one won’t be that bad,” said Scott Young, 56.

“I feel safe,” said Pamela Young. “Everybody’s talking `going, going,’ but the thing is, when you go, there’s no telling what will happen. The storm isn’t going to just hit here.”

While it only reached hurricane strength on Tuesday, Isaac killed at least 23 people and caused significant flooding and damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic before skirting the southern tip of Florida on Sunday and heading across the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm drew intense scrutiny because of its timing – just before the anniversary of the hurricane that devastated that city, while the first major speeches of the Republican National Convention went on in Tampa, Fla., already delayed and tempered by the storm.

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