Hurricane Isaac nears New Orleans
Aug 28, 2012 / 10:06 pm
Isaac turned into a full-blown Category 1 hurricane Tuesday as it rolled toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, where residents in four states left boarded-up homes and New Orleans waited nervously behind flood-defence levees strengthened after the devastating Katrina struck exactly seven years ago.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm, with 80 mph (128 kph) winds, had gained strength as it moved over the warm, open waters of the gulf. It was expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana by early Wednesday.
The focus has been on New Orleans as the slow-moving storm takes aim at the city, but the impact will be felt well beyond it, especially in expected storm surges of up to 12 feet (3.6 metres) in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The storm's winds could be felt more than 200 miles (320 kilometres) from the storm's centre.
Isaac offers one of the first tests of a New Orleans levee system bolstered after the catastrophic failures during Hurricane Katrina. But calm prevailed in the city Tuesday as residents sized up the threat.
Although Isaac's approach on the eve of the Katrina anniversary invited obvious comparisons, the storm is nowhere near as powerful as Katrina was when it struck on August 29, 2005. Katrina at one point reached Category 5 status, with winds of more than 157 mph (252 kph), and made landfall as a Category 3 storm.
Many residents along the Gulf Coast opted to ride it out in shelters or at home. Officials, while sounding alarm about the dangers of the powerful storm, decided not to call for the mass evacuations like those that preceded Katrina.
Burdeau reported from New Orleans.
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