Tropical Storm Isaac made its way to the Florida Keys Sunday evening, knocking out power and causing minor flooding. The system is expected to gain strength as it heads to the warmer waters of the Gulf. Isaac is on a course to make landfall on the Gulf Coast on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the massive storm that devastated New Orleans and flooded eighty percent of that city.
A hurricane warning has been put into effect by the National Hurricane Center for a large area of the north Gulf Coast stretching from New Orleans to Destin, Florida. If Isaac does become a Category 2 hurricane as many forecasters believe, it can pack winds of over 100 miles per hour. In 2005, Katrina gained significant strength as it entered the Gulf. That storm changed the lives of tens of thousands of people permanently and killed at least 1,800.
Katrina was a modest Category 1 hurricane when it crossed southern Florida but gained strength rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico. When it made landfall it was a Category 3 storm which caused widespread destruction all along the coast from Florida to Texas, mostly due to storm surge. Isaac could end up being very much like that system so the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal is urging residents living in low-lying areas to get out now and said that mandatory evacuation orders may be put into place as early as Tuesday.
Jindal has already declared a state of emergency in Louisiana as have the governors of Mississippi and Alabama. Coastal residents are being urged to prepare for the storm as Isaac is predicted to lash out with strong winds and heavy rains. Some coastal areas could get up to ten inches of rain with 15 inches possible along the eastern and central Gulf Coast. If that happens, severe flooding could result. And, storm surge flooding of up to twelve feet is possible along and east of where the storm strikes land.
Residents on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast were stocking up on supplies and securing their properties Sunday. Many grocery stores were turning people away as shelves quickly emptied. Most people were buying canned foods, lunch meats and breads – food which can easily be prepared if there is no power. As Isaac is organizing and facing favorable conditions, the National Hurricane Center said Sunday night that the storm could reach Category 3 status in the Gulf, making it the same as Katrina when it hit on August 29, 2005.