By Holbrook Mohr and Jeff Amy/The Associated Press
GULFPORT — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and other officials are warning residents not to get complacent about the slow approach of Hurricane Isaac.
They say rain dumped by the slow-moving system could cause significant flooding even hundreds of miles inland in coming days, especially on the state’s western side.
Speaking Tuesday at a Mississippi Air National Guard base in Gulfport, they urged residents of the three coastal counties to leave for shelters before dark Tuesday, saying residents are out of time to evacuate.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham says as many as 175,000 residents of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties face evacuation orders.
Water was creeping up on beachside U.S. 90 in Biloxi, and storm surge was pushing out of bayous and bays in other neighborhoods, flooding streets.
Isaac gains strengths as it nears Gulf Coast
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Isaac has gotten a little stronger as it closes in on the Gulf Coast.
Isaac’s maximum sustained winds increased Tuesday afternoon to 80 mph.
The storm is expected to make landfall late Tuesday on the eve of the seventh anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.
While not as powerful as Katrina, Isaac threatens to flood the coasts of four states with storm surge and heavy rains on its way to New Orleans, where residents have been hunkering down behind levees fortified after Katrina struck.
Tracking Isaac: The latest on the storm’s path
The Associated Press
Hurricane Isaac was lashing the northern Gulf Coast with its outer bands of winds and rain Tuesday afternoon.
The center of the still-strengthening storm was getting closer to the coast, about 30 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River. The center or the eye is expected to make it ashore in southeastern Louisiana, possibly the New Orleans area, sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday. Winds Tuesday evening had whipped up to 80 mph.
The center or eye will make it ashore during the seventh anniversary Hurricane Katrina that devastated the area. Isaac would be the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since Ike in 2008.
WHERE AND HOW STRONG?
As of Tuesday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted Isaac would maintain at least Category 1 strength. That would make its winds somewhere between 75 mph and 95 mph.
Southeastern Louisiana is in its crosshairs. But Isaac’s reach is large and it will dump heavy rain as far east as Florida.
While people across the coast were boarding up their homes to prepare for damaging winds, the even bigger fear is potential flooding. Isaac could push storm surge as high as 12 feet into parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and 1 to 3 feet high as far away as Florida’s west coast.
Around New Orleans, residents hunkered down behind levees fortified after Katrina.
Isaac already left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, most of it blamed on flooding that killed 24 people.
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
Isaac veered well west of the Republican National Convention site in Tampa, but it was soggy over the weekend in the bayside city. The GOP pushed back the start of speeches a day to Tuesday and protesters’ ranks have been small, in part because of the soaking brought on by Isaac and in part because of the huge police presence in the city.
The storm has also altered some Republican governors’ plans to attend. Florida Gov. Rick Scott canceled a speaking engagement, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley canceled their trips to Tampa.
Officials in Louisiana’s St. Charles Parish near New Orleans and Terrebonne Parish that includes Houma closer to the Gulf have told about 73,000 residents total to leave ahead of the storm. Some coastal residents in Alabama have also been told to evacuate.
However, officials haven’t ordered the kind of evacuations that have in the past clogged interstates, with both sides of the highway heading one direction. In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said evacuations would not be ordered and told residents to prepare carefully and ride it out.