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Tropical Storm Isaac bound for Louisiana

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TAMPA, Florida: Tropical Storm Isaac swirled toward Louisiana on Sunday, prompting US Gulf Coast states 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 65 miles  (105 kilometers) per hour, it could reach hurricane force within 24 hours, the  Miami-based National Hurricane Center warned.
 
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 Tuesday or Wednesday 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 530 miles southeast of the mouth  of the Mississippi River as it moved away from Key West, Florida.
 
It was heading west-northwest toward Louisiana at 15 miles per hour 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,” the city’s 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 around 1,800 people in New Orleans, a  city famed for its jazz music, easygoing atmosphere and Creole cuisine.
 
Although 1.4 million residents and visitors were ordered to evacuate as the  monster storm approached, many could not or would not and were left stranded.
 
A lack of preparation and bungled coordination forced residents to take  shelter in attics, and then break through their roofs to escape rising water.
 
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 two,” 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 Monday start of their gathering in Tampa.
 
The delegate roll call for Mitt Romney to be formally nominated to take on  President Barack Obama in the November 6 election will now take place Tuesday,  after Monday’s program was repackaged into a tighter schedule due to the storm.
 
Party officials stressed that the prime nighttime speaking slots on  Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, including speeches by Romney, his wife Ann and  running-mate Paul Ryan, remained unchanged.
 
But although the show in Tampa will go on, Louisiana could be in the eye of  the storm by Tuesday or Wednesday, depriving Republicans of the spotlight.
 
Footage of desperate Americans in New Orleans, waving signs reading “Help  Us,” horrified people at home and abroad in 2005, while in the Lower Ninth Ward  — the poorest part of the city — built in a basin and 99 percent black,  bodies drifted lifelessly with the floodwater.
 
Many fled to the Superdome, the stadium where 10,000 people displaced by  the hurricane had already sought refuge, but it too became cut off by the water.
 
Finally, the National Guard was deployed, and managed to restore a  semblance of order, helping coordinate airlifts and bus evacuations that  scattered survivors across the country. AFP

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