(NEW YORK) — As Tropical Storm Isaac grazed the Florida Keys with less force than was feared, hurricane warnings have been issued for the Gulf Coast from Central Louisiana to the Florida panhandle with Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana declaring state of emergencies ahead of the storm’s landfall.
Isaac is expected to strengthen to a weak Category 2 or Category 1 hurricane before making landfall along the Gulf Coast by Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane warnings were issued from east of Morgan City, La. — which includes New Orleans — to Destin, Fla.
If it hits the Gulf Coast Wednesday morning, as forecasters said is possible, it would come on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed hundreds of people and flooded 80 percent of New Orleans.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu admitted anxiety levels are high.
“The timing of this storm coming on, as fate would have it, the anniversary of Katrina, has everybody in a state and sense of alertness and that is a good thing,” he said Sunday.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency and said he’s “strongly advising” people in low lying areas of coastal Louisiana to evacuate ahead of the storm.
“There is a 70 to 80 percent chance we’ll have tropical storm winds in southeast Louisiana and again as it moves west you’ll see more of our state could potentially be covered, by those wind warnings,” Jindal said on Sunday.
As of 11 p.m. EST Sunday, Isaac’s winds were whipping at 65 mph and expected to strengthen as it moves over the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico. The center of the storm is about 110 miles west, southwest of the Florida Keys, according to the National Hurricane Center. To be considered a Category 1 hurricane, winds have to be 74 mph or higher.
“With winds of that strength, one of the greatest concerns is storm surge, where the water will be moving ashore, blown in by the winds,” said Ed Rappaport, forecaster with the National Hurricane Center.
Since the storm is apparently moving further west, the Tampa Bay area is not expected to be affected as much as was previously thought. Fears that Isaac would pound Tampa, Fla., on Monday led GOP officials to decide to postpone the start of the Republican National Convention, which was scheduled to begin on Monday.
A tropical storm warning is still in effect for Tampa Bay and Miami.
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Shannon Gupta, CNN
Max Blau and Chandrika Narayan, CNN
Eric Bradner, CNN