Tropical Storm Isaac over Gulf of Mexico early Monday (Credit: NOAA/National Hurricane Center)
Forecasters say Isaac is on the verge of becoming a hurricane as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast.
As of 5 a.m. August 28, Isaac is still a tropical storm, but is gaining strength and is likely to become a hurricane sometime today.
Isaac is expected to make landfall over southeastern Louisiana, possibly the New Orleans area, either late today or early Wednesday.
Hurricane warnings were in effect Monday morning from east of Morgan City, La. to Destin, Fla. That stretch includes New Orleans.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, and 53,000 residents of St. Charles Parish near New Orleans were ordered to leave ahead of the storm.
So far there are no mandatory evacuations for the city itself right now. The mayor says that he is confident the city’s hurricane protection system will hold.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu did declare a state of emergency, says CBS affiliate WWL-TV in New Orleans, as did Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.
Oil companies began evacuating workers and cutting production at Gulf offshore rigs in Isaac's projected path.
The storm delayed the start of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL. Even though the storm was moving well west of Tampa, tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains were possible in the area because of Isaac's large size, forecasters said. The Convention will resume today.
Tampa Mayor Bill Buckhorn, a Democrat, said the weather would be "squirrely" but predicted the storm would not unduly interfere with the convention.
"We're going to show the world on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday what a great place this is," he said. "As a state and a city, we're going to put on a good show and be a great host for the Republican Party."
Florida, historically the state most prone to hurricanes, has been hurricane-free since it was hit four times each in 2004 and 2005. Isaac will likely prove barely a memory for South Florida and Keys residents, who mostly took the storm in stride as its center passed just south of Key West on Sunday.
"This is routine for us," said Annie Lopez, 47, a lifelong Key West resident. "It's down to a science."
Added Jean Claude Philemy of Miami, "Every year, it's almost the same. We can deal with it."
The storm did knock out power temporarily for around 16,000 customers throughout South Florida, and 555 flights were canceled at Miami International Airport. That forced some people to shuffle their travel plans and kept many, at least for a day, from enjoying their beach vacations.
"I have friends who tell me to come in January," said Peter Muller, who was visiting Miami with his family from Germany. They spent part of Sunday at a Miami-area mall. "Maybe they know best."
In the low-lying Keys, isolated patches of flooding were reported and some roads were littered with downed palm fronds and small branches. But officials said damage appeared to be minimal, and many Keys residents held true to their any-excuse-for-a-party reputation.
"The storm was the most fun thing ever!" exclaimed Sergey Jadzevics, who were taking pictures on famed Duval Street in Key West, a fresh bottle of vodka in hand.
"It's not really scary," added Kevin Furcrown, another Key West resident. "It's more of a hassle than anything."
The Gulf Coast hasn't been hit by a hurricane since 2008, when Dolly, Ike and Gustav all struck the region.
Before reaching Florida, Isaac was blamed for eight deaths in Haiti and two more in the Dominican Republic, and downed trees and power lines in Cuba. It bore down on the Keys two days after the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, which caused more than $25 billion in damage and killed 26 people in South Florida.