Hurricane Isaac made landfall in the southeastern United States Tuesday, hitting south of New Orleans just hours before the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
As of 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, over 159,000 people in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, were without power as the eye of Hurricane Isaac held over the city. Overall, nearly 545,000 residents in all of southern Louisiana are without power today.
Winds have been clocked upward of 74 mph, with 60+mph winds currently being felt at New Orleans airport, the National Weather Service said. However, the larger threat comes from storm surges, which will be the highest - 6 to 12 feet - in southeastern Louisiana and Mississippi.
South of the city in Plaquemines Parish, over 40 people are stranded on the area's east bank due to such storm surges.
Although most of the parish's 1,500 residents evacuated on the advice of local officials, the National Guard has been on stand-by with high-water vehicles for just such an incident. State police are currently escorting them into the area.
This week's hurricane hit the state just a few hours before the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The timing prompted differing responses by locals, with some choosing to immediately evacuate their homes.
Others, meanwhile, hunkered down to withstand the storm as they remembered the rickety FEMA trailers and years of waiting before some could return to their homes after Katrina.
The absence of proper levees and under-estimation of evacuation needs by FEMA led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people from their homes after Katrina hit in 2005. Widespread public outrage was palpable, with many members of Congress saying the slowest response times were to the city's poorest areas.
The event became the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history at $108 billion. Over 1,800 people lost their lives and the city's economy was ravaged for years after as people still continue to pick up the pieces.
New levee systems set up after Katrina have stood the test during this storm, protecting the city of New Orleans from the worst of the flooding.
"The federal levee system...is fine," New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu told local radio.
"There are no risks. It is holding exactly as we expected it to and is performing exactly as it should. There are no people on rooftops from flooding that even approximates what happened during Katrina," he added.
The storm will continue to pass over Louisiana today and tomorrow and will reach the Arkansas border by Friday.
According to the National Weather Service, the hurricane will most likely be downgraded back to a tropical storm late Wednesday. Coming to the end of the week, winds and sea levels will subside and weaken.
by RTT Staff Writer
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