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Isaac now a hurricane

Flooding in wake of Isaac a major concern

MIAMI | August 28, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac was upgraded to a hurricane Tuesday as it barreled its way toward New Orleans on the day before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Isaac left 24 dead in Haiti, which still is recovering from a devastating earthquake two years ago.

At 11 a.m. EDT, the category 1 hurricane was 80 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 165 miles southeast of New Orleans, sporting sustained winds of 70 mph -- technically just less than hurricane strength -- and heading northwest at 10 mph.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect from the Mississippi-Alabama border east to Destin, Fla. Tropical storm watches were in effect from High Island, Texas, to Cameron, La.

Tropical storm winds extended out 185 miles from the storm's center and gusts of 110 mph were reported.

A storm surge of as high as 12 feet was predicted for high tide along the Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana coasts, with 4 to 8 feet predicted for Alabama, 3 to 6 feet for south central Louisiana and the Florida panhandle, 2 to 4 feet for Apalachee Bay and 1 to 3 feet for the remainder of Florida's west coast.

"Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle and can vary greatly over short distances," the hurricane center said.

The storm was expected to produce 7 to 14 inches of rain with 20 inches possible in some areas of southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the extreme western portion of the Florida Panhandle.

Should the storm make landfall Wednesday in Louisiana, it will do so on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 and killed some 1,800 people.

President Obama Tuesday urged area residents to heed warnings from local officials to head to higher ground. In Mississippi, 1,500 National Guard troops have been ordered into the state's southern counties to help with emergency operations.

Forecasters are also watching Tropical Storm Ileana off the western coast of Mexico. It was about 475 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California and 415 miles west-southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, at 11 a.m. EDT. The system had maximum sustained winds or 50 mph and was moving west-northwest at 9 mph, away from land.

No coastal watches or warnings are in effect for Ileana.

Republican leaders at the party's national convention in Tampa, Fla., expressed concern Isaac's striking around the Katrina anniversary could remind voters of the George W. Bush administration's response, which party officials admitted was a symbol of collective GOP incompetence they don't want to revive.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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