(NEW ORLEANS) — Isaac remains a tropical storm with a chance of becoming a weak Category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall, but forecasters say the biggest threat will be rainfall and the storm surge.
Forecasters have projected landfall as early as Tuesday night — a day short of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. On Monday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Isaac’s similar path as Katrina and the anniversary was leaving much of the Gulf Coast on “a high level of anxiety.”
Winds will be an issue initially when Isaac makes landfall with gusts up to 75 mph. Forecasters say the big threat with Isaac will be the storm surge around New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., where water might rise six to nine feet. The slow moving storm could punish coastal areas with up to 20 inches of rain, which was one of Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal’s main concerns on Monday.
As of 2 a.m. ET Tuesday, the center of the storm was 145 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving northwest at 12 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Despite hurricane warnings extended across more than 330 miles from Louisiana to western Florida, all eyes are still on New Orleans as this will be its first big test since Katrina.
Since the levees failed seven years ago over $14 billion have been spent on the 133-mile long floodwalls, spillways, gates and pumps surrounding New Orleans. While officials say the city is more prepared now than they were in 2005, they’re still taking no chances when it comes to evacuations.
Jindal warned people in low lying areas to get out of Isaac’s way.
“Today is the day,” the governor said on Monday. “Today is the final day you should be taking any final precautions. If you want to evacuate, today is the day to do that.”
Jindal said over 4,000 National Guardsmen will be mobilized in case of emergency, but said he does not anticipate having to activate contraflow highway rules for evacuation purposes.
He also said that President Obama called him on Monday to say that the governor’s request for a pre-landfall federal disaster declaration had been approved. The approval opens up federal funding to potentially help Louisiana cope with any damage.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jethro Mullen, Ravi Hiranand and Frank Pallotta, CNN
Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak and Patrick Oppmann, CNN