Hurricane Isaac continues to lash southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as it pushed winds of 80 mph and created an expected storm surge of more than 8 feet — all on the eve of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Although much of the levees in the area, including New Orleans, have been refortified, one levee farther to the southeast in Plaquemines Parish was overtopped.
Parish President Billy Nungesser, whose own home was afflicted by the storm, said that many residents are stranded and the effects may be worse than in Katrina. “The devastation of my house is worse than Katrina aand the flooding in Woodlawn is worse than Katrina, so those things tell me that the damage on the east bank is worse than Katrina,” Nungesser told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The Times-Picayune reported that as Isaac’s winds approach populated areas, gusts reached to more than 100 mph and storm force winds may extend farther than 185 miles from the storm’s center. The National Weather Service said the hurricane is now moving at about 6 mph, causing flooding conditions in the areas affected by the storm.
Authorities issued tornado watches for much of coastal southeastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi, including areas as far away as Baton Rouge. In New Orleans, citizens in several parts of the city are reporting damage and flooding that are making streets impassable. Mayor Mitch Landrieu told local radio stations that the federally rebuilt levee system is holding up so far.
About 509,000 people statewide are without power on the first day of the hurricane, local power utility Entergy reported. Officials there left a recorded message for its customers informing them that it may take up to 30 hours to restore their power in the event of a blackout. Wind gusts must be lower than 30 mph for power crews to begin to make repairs.
(PHOTOS: Hurricane Isaac Takes Aim on New Orleans)
Meanwhile, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opted to skip the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., to attend to matters in his home state, sought more federal aid from President Obama. The White House declared a limited state of emergency in Louisiana, but Jindal has called for more help, arguing that the funds disseminated by FEMA do not cover the cost of preparations for Isaac.
“Unfortunately, your limited declaration does not provide for reimbursement of expenses that the state is taking to prepare for the storm,” Jindal said in a letter to the president. No word yet from the White House on whether more funding will be granted.