Isaac Gains Hurricane Strength, Bears Down on Gulf Coast

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW YORK) -- Forecasters Tuesday upgraded Tropical Storm Isaac to a Category 1 hurricane just hours before it's expected to make landfall on the Gulf Coast, while warning that the biggest threat will be the rainfall and storm surge, not the wind.

Isaac, a massive and slow-moving storm, will make landfall as early as Tuesday night, a day short of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Isaac's path is similar to Katrina's and the anniversary has left much of the Gulf Coast on "a high level of anxiety."

Winds are now 75 miles per hour and are expected to rise to at least 80 mph when Isaac makes landfall. Forecasters say the big threat will be the storm surge around New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., where water might rise six to nine feet. The hurricane is forecasted to hover over the Gulf Coast and could punish coastal areas with up to 20 inches of rain.

"The models show [Isaac's] forward speed slowing down, and that's not good, when a large system moves slowly, that means a lot of rainfall," Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told Good Morning America today.

As of 11:20 a.m. ET, the center of the hurricane was 80 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving northwest at 10 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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