Isaac becoming hurricane

2012-08-28 19:56

Washington - Tropical storm Isaac was on the verge of becoming a hurricane on Tuesday as it barrelled through the Gulf of Mexico toward New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf coast on the seventh anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Isaac is set to make landfall as a category 1 hurricane, with its centre near or over the Louisiana coast tonight or early Wednesday, according the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami.

At 09:00 GMT, the slow-moving storm was travelling at 19km/h with maximum wind speeds of 110km/h, the NHC said.
The greatest risks will come from rainfall and the "significant" storm surges, according to the NHC, with the water level around New Orleans rising 2 to 3m.

Local authorities ordered evacuations from low-lying regions both inland and on the coast.

The threatened area is the same stretch of coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina. It struck almost exactly seven years ago - on 29 August  2005 - killing more than 1 800 people and displacing thousands in New Orleans and other parts of the region.

Katrina blasted New Orleans as a category 3 storm and became the costliest natural disaster the United States had ever experienced and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in US history.

Officials say that $10bn of improvement have been made to the levee and dam system that failed in 2005.