Chauvin: Tropical storm Isaac, packing swirling winds and rains, became a hurricane on Tuesday as it bore down on the on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.
The US National Hurricane Center in Miami said Isaac became a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday with winds of 75 mph. It could get stronger by the time it’s expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana.
President Barack Obama said Gulf Coast residents should listen to local authorities and follow their directions as Isaac approached.
‘‘Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously,’’ Obama said.
In Houma, a city southwest of New Orleans, people filled a municipal auditorium-turned-shelter. However, in the bayou country of Terrebonne Parish off Highway 24, storms pose a perennial dilemma for those living a hardscrabble life.
Forecasters warned that Isaac was a large storm whose effects could reach out 200 miles from its center. Water may be worse than wind because the storm could push walls of water while dumping rain to flood the low-lying coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
So far, the main damage in the United States was political: Republicans cut one day off their presidential nominating convention in Tampa in case the storm struck there, though in the end it bypassed the bayside city. Isaac is also testing elected officials along the Gulf from governors on down to show they’re prepared for an emergency response.
Isaac’s track is forecast to bring it to New Orleans seven years after Katrina hit as a much stronger storm on Aug. 29, 2005.
Indian-American Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal has decided to skip the Republican party's convention to focus on preparatory measures ahead of 'Isaac' which is expected to hit the state by this evening.
Authorities encouraged thousands of residents in low-lying areas to evacuate, warning the storm could flood towns and cities in at least three US Gulf Coast states with a storm surge of up to 3.6 metres.
Residents in coastal communities from Louisiana to Mississippi stocked up on food and water and tried to secure their homes, cars and boats.
In New Orleans, a bumper-to-bumper stream of vehicles left the city on a highway toward Baton Rouge in search of higher ground. Others prepared, or were forced, to ride the storm out.
Energy companies evacuated offshore oil rigs and shut down US Gulf Coast refineries as the storm threatened to batter the country's oil refining belt.
Oil firms ferried workers in helicopters from oil platforms hundreds of miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
With Agencies inputs
First Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 16:05