Hurricane Isaac Pummels Louisiana; New Orleans Yet To Feel Brunt

Heavy, wind-driven rain from Hurricane Isaac was battering parts of Louisiana today, leaving tens of thousands without power as the slow-moving system crept northwestward on its way inland.

But New Orleans has yet to feel the full brunt of Isaac, which came ashore at 7:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Even so, Isaac, a category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds, was already putting an extensive $14.5 billion post-Katrina upgrade to New Orleans’ levee system to the test exactly seven years after the 2005 hurricane hit the city, causing widespread devastation.

Although Isaac “wobbled” and moved west overnight, The Times-Picayune website noted late Tuesday night:

The huge storm still poses a major wind and rainfall threat to the New Orleans area, however. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward 185 miles.

Torrential rain – amounting to as much as 20 inches in some areas – was expected to linger for hours over parts of New Orleans. Already, the National Weather Service reported “Significant flooding from overtopping of levees in the East Bank portion of Plaquemines [Parish].”

The Times-Picayune reports some 250,000 residential and commercial customers in Louisiana were without electricity as of 11pm Tuesday. NPR’s Russell Lewis says, “transformers are exploding like popcorn, sending bright flashes of light into the sky.”

(Power outages can be tracked here )

Tens of thousands of Louisiana and Mississippi residents living in low-lying areas were advised to leave their homes, but many of them chose to stay and ride out the storm, despite memories of Katrina’s devastation and appalling death toll. Among those who were taken out of the storm’s path were 700 patients of Louisiana nursing homes.

The National Weather Service says the storm is moving agonizingly slow at just 8 mph, giving it plenty of time to pummel and saturate affected areas. It is still me, as the center of the system is still approximately 60 miles southwest of New Orleans.

According to the NWS, “A general northwest motion at a slower forward speed is expected today and tonight … followed by a turn toward the north-northwest by Thursday night or early Friday.”

That will put the center of a likely-weakened Isaac over southern Arkansas by early Friday.

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