Isaac sets sights on landfall near La. coast
Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Sunday and urged residents in low-laying areas of 15 south Louisiana parishes to evacuate voluntarily after forecasters predicted Tropical Storm Isaac is headed toward Louisiana and could intensify to a Category 2 hurricane as it steams across the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning at 4 p.m. Sunday for the northern Gulf coastline from east of Morgan City to Destin, Fla., which included the New Orleans metro area, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas. That warning was still in effect Sunday night.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for a number of other parishes, including East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, West Feliciana, East Feliciana, St. Helena and Iberville.
The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours, Mayor Kip Holden said Sunday afternoon in a news release.
He said that East Baton Rouge Parish could see tropical storm force wind speeds, which are from 39 mph to 73 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Holden also said the parish could experience large amounts of rainfall that could potentially cause widespread flooding. Isolated tornadoes are also a possibility with this system, he said.
“As with any storm, we are urging everyone to continue to make the proper preparations not only for the duration of the storm, but also for the possibility of being without basic services for an extended period of time,” Holden said.
As of 7 p.m. Sunday, the center of the storm was expected to move away from the Florida Keys late Sunday and move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Monday before approaching the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Maximum sustained winds were near 65 miles per hour, and tropical storm force winds extended outward as far as 205 miles, according to the National Weather Service.
The National Weather Service warning said Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to strengthen to a hurricane “in a day or two.”
The National Weather Service told the state to prepare for tropical storm winds as early as Monday night and warned the storm could upgrade to Category 2 status when it makes landfall early Wednesday, Jindal said. A Category 2 hurricane has sustained winds of 96 mph to 110 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
The parishes Jindal called on to evacuate are: Ascension, Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Plaquemines, Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne and Washington.
Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said on his Facebook page that no mandatory evacuation order is in place for the parish but the emergency operations center has been partially activated.
State government offices in those 15 parishes will be closed Monday, the state Division of Administration said in a news release.
Jefferson Parish called for a mandatory evacuation of nonresidents in Grand Isle, parish spokeswoman Kriss Fortunato said. Grand Isle residents will be required to evacuate Monday morning, she said.
The American Red Cross is setting up a large shelter in Alexandria for evacuees, and the state will set up more shelters closer to those southern parishes that are under the hurricane warning, Jindal said.
The state already has activated 4,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard to assist with emergency operations and has reached out to nearby states for possibly more assistance, Jindal said.
“I would recommend to our people, let’s hope and pray for the best even as we prepare for the worst,” Jindal said. “Now is the time to make sure you’ve got an evacuation plan.”
East Baton Rouge Parish declared a state of emergency Sunday afternoon, but officials were not expecting any evacuations, said JoAnne Moreau, director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Office of Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness.
“A lot of things are triggered based on the track of the storm,” Moreau said.
The Baton Rouge Police Department’s emergency preparedness team was on standby as of Sunday, police spokesman Cpl. Tommy Stubbs said.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office is preparing boats and other maritime equipment for high-water rescue, sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
Classes at LSU will be held as scheduled on Monday, but the university activated its emergency operations center Sunday night, LSU spokeswoman Kristine Calongne said.
Classes at Southern University are still on as scheduled Monday, but university officials will meet Monday morning to discuss any emergency action that needs to be taken, Southern spokesman Edward Pratt said.
Schools in East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes all were scheduled to open Monday.
Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess said the parish declared a state of emergency at 2 p.m. Sunday and the parish’s emergency operations center will remain open 24 hours.
Jindal said the state Department of Natural Resources is working with Texas Brine Co. LLC of Houston to make sure equipment at the site and surrounding areas of a massive sinkhole in Assumption Parish are secure.
Workers were set to resume drilling an observational well on Sunday to examine a nearby salt cavern believed to have caused the sinkhole, Texas Brine said in a news release.
Officials will determine Monday morning if the rig needs to be shut down based on Isaac’s path, the release says.
Jindal said he will stay in Louisiana and not attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this week as long as the state is under threat from Tropical Storm Isaac.
“I’m not thinking about the convention,” Jindal said. “I’m not thinking about politics right now. Our absolute top priority has to be the safety of our people.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Aug. 27 to correctly report what Gov. Bobby Jindal said about evacuations.