Isaac Churns In Gulf Along Katrina's Path - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Isaac Churns In Gulf Along Katrina's Path

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A car goes through a flooded street due to heavy rains in Key West, Fla., Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012 as heavy winds and rain hit the northern coast. (AP Photo) A car goes through a flooded street due to heavy rains in Key West, Fla., Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012 as heavy winds and rain hit the northern coast. (AP Photo)
Tropical Storm Isaac's projected path will bring it ashore in the New Orleans area late Tuesday or early Wednesday. (Credit: NOAA.gov) Tropical Storm Isaac's projected path will bring it ashore in the New Orleans area late Tuesday or early Wednesday. (Credit: NOAA.gov)
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KEY WEST, Fla. (AP/CBS) - Tropical Storm Isaac targeted a broad swath of the Gulf Coast on Monday and had New Orleans in its crosshairs, bearing down just ahead of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said Monday that 23 parishes in Louisiana have declared states of emergency, with many ordering mandatory evacuations.

"Today is the day for folks in that area to get out of harm's way," he said. "Pack up your stuff and get out of harm's way."

Because Isaac is a slow-moving storm, there is danger not just from wind damage but also a long accumulation of rain and storm surge, even at inland parishes.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called it "quite ironic that we have a hurricane that is threatening us on the seventh anniversary of Katrina." But he said at a press conference Monday that the city is fully prepared to handle Isaac's punch.

"We are staged, we are battle ready, we are in battle rhythm and we will be prepared to handle what comes our way," Landrieu said.

He also said he believed everything is going to be OK. "That does not mean that you can let your guard down," he said.

David Bernard, chief meteorologist for CBS Station WFOR in Miami, said outside metropolitan New Orleans, communities not protected by the levee system, such as St. Charles Parish and Lower Jefferson Parish, are in danger.

The death toll from the storm jumped, with the announcement that 19 died in Haiti and five in the Dominican Republic.

The storm blew past the Florida Keys with little damage, and rolled northwestward over the open Gulf of Mexico on Monday. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would grow to a hurricane over the warm water, with winds of between 74 and 95 mph. It is predicted to hit sometime Tuesday along a roughly 300-mile stretch of coastline, from the bayous southwest of New Orleans to the edge of the Florida Panhandle.

That would be one day shy of seven years after Katrina struck catastrophically in 2005, although Katrina was a much stronger Category 5 storm with winds above 157 miles per hour. Isaac is expected to have top winds of around 90 mph when it hits land.

But Isaac could pack a watery double punch: If it hits during high tide, floodwaters as deep as 12 feet could be pushed ashore in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and up to six feet in the Florida Panhandle, as up to 18 inches of rain is dumped over the region, the National Weather Service warned.

As of 2:00 p.m. ET Isaac was about 280 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving northwest at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds were 65 mph.

The size of the warning area and the storm's wide bands of rain and wind prompted emergency declarations in four states, and hurricane-tested residents were boarding up homes, sticking up on food and water or getting ready to evacuate.

The potential for a landfall as a Category 1 hurricane as soon as Tuesday prompted evacuations along a wide area of the Gulf Coast and sent people out to stock up on staples.

"I gassed up -- truck and generator," John Corll, 59, a carpenter, said as he left a New Orleans coffee shop Monday morning. He went through Katrina in 2005 and was expecting a weaker storm this time, adding that he thinks the levee system is in better shape to handle a storm surge than when Katrina hit. "I think the state and local governments are much better prepared for the storm surge and emergencies," Corll said.

On the Alabama coast, Billy Cannon, 72, was preparing to evacuate -- with several cars packed with family and four Chihuahuas -- from a home on a peninsula in Gulf Shores. Canon, who has lived on the coast for 30 years, said he thinks the order to evacuate Monday was premature.

"If it comes in, it's just going to be a big rain storm. I think they overreacted but I understand where they're coming from. It's safety," he said.

Although Pensacola seemed less likely to get a direct hit, the owners of a Ferris Wheel-like beach attraction were busy Monday removing passenger cabins and readying for a storm they hoped would not prove too disruptive.

"We just want to get back open and get the people back out there," said one of the owners, Todd Schneider.

But the Gulf region thinks itself much more prepared for a hurricane since Katrina hit seven years ago. In Louisiana, there has been a $14 billion overhaul of levees and floodwalls and new evacuation plans.

Those plans were put into effect Sunday, with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declaring a state of emergency, and 53,000 residents of St. Charles Parish near New Orleans being told to leave ahead of the storm. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu also declared a state of emergency, says CBS affiliate WWL-TV in New Orleans, as did Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

The oncoming storm stopped work on rigs that account for 24 percent of daily oil production in the U.S. potion of the Gulf of Mexico and eight percent of daily natural gas production there, the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in its latest update Sunday.

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 23 percent of total U.S. crude oil production, seven percent of the nation's natural gas and more than 40 percent of refining capacity.

Several regional governors altered their plans for this week's GOP convention in Tampa. Bentley has canceled his trip, and Jindal said he's likely to do so unless the threat from the storm subsides. Scott gave up a chance to speak.

Amtrak cancelled train service in Louisiana for Tuesday and Wednesday. The route than runs from New York to New Orleans would end in Atlanta, while its route from Los Angeles to New Orleans would stop in San Antonio. Amtrak was also suspending part of its rail line between Miami and Orlando, Fla.

Grocery and home improvement stores as well as fuel stations in Louisiana reported brisk business as residents sought to prepare for Isaac. Some gas stations were running out of supplies.

Even though the storm was moving well west of Tampa, tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains were possible in the area because of Isaac's large size, forecasters said. A small group of protesters braved rainy weather Sunday and vowed to continue despite the weather, which already forced the Republicans to cancel Monday's opening session of the convention. Instead, the GOP will briefly gavel the gathering to order Monday afternoon and then recess until Tuesday.

The Gulf Coast hasn't been hit by a hurricane since 2008, when Dolly, Ike and Gustav all struck the region.

Before reaching Florida, Isaac was blamed for 19 deaths in Haiti and five more in the Dominican Republic, and downed trees and power lines in Cuba.

Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste of Haiti's Civil Protection Office announced the higher death toll. Some of the Haitians died because their homes fell on top of them. Twenty-two others in Haiti were injured and six are missing.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press/CBS News Interactive. All Rights Reserved.)

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