310,000 without power around New Orleans

Hurricane Isaac batters Gulf coast with torrential rain

NEW ORLEANS | August 29, 2012

Hurricane Isaac began moving inland in southeast Louisiana Wednesday morning, with forecasters predicting the storm would bring with it a dangerous storm surge.

The Category 1 hurricane made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River Tuesday night and a second landfall near Port Fourchon about 3 a.m. EDT, CNN reported.

About 310,000 were left in the dark as Isaac knocked down power lines, officials said.

Hurricane warnings were in effect from east of Morgan City, La., through New Orleans and inland through Lake Maurepas near Magnolia Landing, halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Morgan City is a coastal city of 12,000 people 85 miles west of New Orleans that is 7 feet above sea level. Storm surges have been 12 feet in some places.

Isaac is expected to continue to move further into the state Wednesday and Thursday and to be over southern Arkansas early Friday.

The threat of flooding from heavy rains is likely to continue through Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Center reported.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the storm was 50 miles south-southeast of Houma and 60 miles south southwest of New Orleans with winds of 80 mph. It was moving west-northwest at 8 mph.

Rain amounts of 7- to 14 inches are predicted over Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southwest Alabama through Friday morning, the NHC said. Southern Arkansas could get 3- to 6 inches of precipitation by Friday morning.

In anticipation of the strength of the storm, about 1,000 National Guard solders and 2,700 police officers were already in place in New Orleans, in hopes of avoiding the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Airports in New Orleans; Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.; and Mobile, Ala., closed as the storm approached, canceling about 1,500 flights. Major ports were closed from Baton Rouge to the mouth of the Mississippi River and Amtrak suspended service to and from New Orleans.

Isaac is the first test of the millions of dollars of upgrades to New Orleans' system of levees the Army Corps of Engineers installed after large parts of the city were inundated when Katrina breached the levees and overwhelmed pumps.

Emergency management officials in Plaquemines Parish said 18 miles of levees from Braithwaite to White Ditch had been overtopped, with "significant deep flooding" predicted for the area, the National Weather Service New Orleans office said early Wednesday.

Most residential and commercial customers that lost power were likely to remain in the dark for at least a couple more days, utility officials told The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, because crews would not start repairs until winds dropped to less than 30 or 35 mph. That's likely to be Thursday at the earliest, they said.

Federal officials warned the storm, which killed 29 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, still had the power to produce widespread damage and threaten lives, not just on the coast but also inland, for several days.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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