Tropical Storm Isaac took aim at Louisiana and other US Gulf states yesterday, prompting them to declare states of emergency almost seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
The storm was lashing the Florida coast and with winds reaching 100kph, could reach hurricane force within 24 hours, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.
Early yesterday, Isaac was churning 290km southwest of Fort Myers, Florida, heading across the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it was expected to gather strength.
Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama issued emergency warnings on Sunday, 24 hours after Isaac forced the main program of the US Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, to be curtailed by one day.
Ahead of Isaac’s expected landfall today or tomorrow along the Gulf Coast, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered mandatory evacuations in the southern counties of Mobile and Baldwin, while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recommended voluntary evacuations within the hurricane watch area.
The NHC’s latest forecast said Isaac was still 650km southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
It was heading west-northwest toward Louisiana at 22kph and a hurricane warning was in place for populated areas including New Orleans.
“Under current forecasts, New Orleans may feel winds as early as Monday night, with heavy weather Tuesday and Wednesday,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement, noting that a state of emergency declaration there would help city officials prepare for the worst.
The NHC said “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” in all areas subject to the hurricane warning.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Mississippi-Louisiana border on August 29, 2005 — eventually killing about 1,800 people in New Orleans.
Sunday’s emergency declarations indicated the importance of official efforts to safeguard the city, as Isaac brought rain and choppy seas to the Florida Keys after battering Haiti and Cuba over the weekend.
“Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours and Isaac is expected to become a hurricane in a day or so,” the NHC said.
A hurricane warning for the Florida Keys and parts of the state’s southwest coast was reduced to a tropical storm warning, though Republicans had already postponed the planned start yesterday of their gathering in Tampa. The NHC also warned that that Isaac could spawn “isolated tornadoes” over Central and Southern Florida yesterday.
The delegate roll call for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to be formally nominated to take on US President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 election will now take place today, after yesterday’s program was repackaged into a tighter schedule due to the storm.
Party officials stressed that the prime nighttime speaking slots on today, tomorrow and Thursday, including speeches by Romney, his wife, Ann, and running mate, US Representative Paul Ryan, remained unchanged.
However, although the show in Tampa will go on, Louisiana could be in the eye of the storm by today or tomorrow, depriving Republicans of the spotlight.
Events have raised ironic cries that God must be a Democrat as they echo a similar scenario in 2008, when Republicans canceled nearly all their programming on the first day of their convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, due to Hurricane Gustav.