Entries in Gulf Coast (4)


Tropical Storm Isaac Leaves More Than 700K Without Power

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- More than 700,000 people have been left without power in four states as Isaac, now a tropical storm, continues to pummel the Gulf Coast with rain and maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

Forecasters at NOAA are warning that Isaac could create "life-threatening hazards from storm surge and inland flooding as it moves slowly across southeastern Louisiana."

An unofficial rainfall total of 22.5 inches was reported in Arabi, La., near the city's 9th Ward. An official report from Audubon Park in New Orleans listed 17 inches of rainfall.

Three helicopters were in the New Orleans area in case residents needed to be rescued from floodwaters. Each crew was equipped with hoist capability and a rescue swimmer, according to Coast Guard officials.

Hurricane Isaac weakened into a tropical storm Wednesday afternoon -- but not before its powerful storm surge overtopped levees, raising water levels as far as 314 miles up the Mississippi River.

Hurricane warnings were discontinued as the storm moved northwest at 6 mph. A tropical storm warning was in effect from Cameron, La., to the Alabama and Florida border.

Despite the downgrade, forecasters said Isaac wasn't running out of steam just yet.

Six- to 12-foot storm surges were expected in Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana, with seven to 14 inches of rainfall.

The Central Gulf Coast region and part of the Lower Mississippi Valley could experience tornados through Thursday.

Isaac, which at its peak was a weak Category 1 hurricane, showed storm surge heights more characteristic of a strong Category 2 storm. The hurricane overtopped levees, knocked down trees and cut power to 716,068 in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi

There were no reports of injuries but dozens of residents of Plaquemines Parish, La., were stranded atop a levee, while there were multiple reports of people trapped in attics by rising waters.

As of mid-afternoon, fewer people had been evacuated than during Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans seven years ago Wednesday.

A total of 56 parishes in Louisiana declared states of emergency, according to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who added that there was a breakaway of a non-federal levee on the East Bank in Plaquemines Parish. The parish had a mandatory evacuation at noon Tuesday. Officials were considering conducting an intentional breach to release some of the water at that levee.

Thousands who live in the area were stuck in their homes or attics, and rescuers were out in boats helping those who needed it most.

There were 19 parishes included in the federal disaster declaration, while approximately 8,200 national guardsmen were available to help with search-and-rescue efforts, according to Gov. Jindal. There were 4,130 people in shelters across the state -- 730 in state-run shelters and 3,237 evacuees in parish-run shelters, according to Jindal.

In advance of the storm, Louisiana set up shelters and stockpiled more than a million packaged meals, 1.4 million bottles of water and 17,000 tarps.

Since the levees failed in Katrina seven years ago, more than $14 billion has been spent on the 133 miles of floodwalls, spillways, gates and pumps surrounding New Orleans.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Isaac Batters Gulf Coast With Rain, Winds

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW ORLEANS) -- Hurricane Isaac pounded the Gulf Coast Wednesday, overtopping a levee southeast of New Orleans, knocking down trees and cutting power to more than 400,000 homes.

There were no reports of injuries but dozens of residents of Plaquemines Parish, La., were stranded atop a levee, while there were multiple reports of people trapped in attics by rising waters. Thus far, fewer people were evacuated than during Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans seven years ago today.

But the Category 1 slow-moving storm is expected to stay over the region all day with its drenching rains and high winds. As of 9 a.m. the storm's center was about 40 miles southwest of New Orleans, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At 9 a.m., 30 to 40 vehicles were stranded atop the levee in Plaquemines waiting for a ferry, with water all around, according to a contractor who works for the parish. That ferry is the only way off that flooded spit of land. A source told ABC News that nearly the entirety of the area has been flooded, and winds still howling at 35-40 mph, prevented a ferry from approaching.

It is estimated that it will be six to eight hours before it's safe for the ferry to motor out to the stranded people, who were without power but do have cell phone service.

Thousands who live in the area are still stuck in their homes or attics, and rescuers are out in boats helping those who need it most.

"I've got a four-by-four hole in my roof, several pieces in the front yard, the back wall of my house moved a couple of feet, and with each gust of wind, it's like you're breathing in and out," William Harold "Billy" Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, told Good Morning America.

Nungesser confirmed that a levee in Plaquemines Parish was overtopped with water, causing flooding. So far there were no reports that the $14 billion of levees and pumps put up around New Orleans after Katrina have been breached, but officials have not yet fully assessed the situation.

"The water came up so quickly and overtopped the levees from Breakaway to White Ditch on the east back of the north end of the parish. It's an area that we called for a mandatory evacuation," he said.

At daylight, parish officials were out examining the damage, according to James Madere, a parish geographic information system analyst. The Plaquemines Parish Public Information Office tells ABC News that rescue operations will not start until it is safe, possibly as late as 1 p.m. ET.

In New Orleans, power lines were down, snaking and sparking across city streets after transformers exploded across the city Tuesday night.

The city saw handfuls of arrests early as looters took advantage of the chaos, sheriffs and police and National Guard were all out in force. The hurricane promised to lend even more solemnity to commemoration ceremonies Wednesday for Katrina's 1,800 dead in Louisiana and Mississippi, including the tolling of the bells at St. Louis Cathedral overlooking New Orleans' Jackson Square. This storm is far less powerful at Category 1 than Katrina, which caused at least $81 billion in damage and was rated as the most powerful Category 5 storm.

As of 9 a.m., Isaac was still packing winds of 80 mph. Isaac is moving at near 6 mph and has already dropped more than six inches of rain on New Orleans. Hurricane force winds extend 60 miles from the center of the storm.

The hurricane had moved back into the Gulf of Mexico after making its initial landfall Tuesday evening. Isaac's center remained over water where it was almost stationary before making landfall again this morning.

The 200-mile wide hurricane is expected to gradually weaken and move inland in a northwestward motion, dumping seven to 14 inches of rain across Louisiana, with some places receiving up to 20 inches, according to forecasters.

The greatest concern is an expected storm surge of between six and 12 feet off the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, four to eight feet along the Alabama coast and three to six feet on the Florida Panhandle, according to the Hurricane Center located in Miami.

A storm surge of 11 feet was reported at Shell Beach, La., late Tuesday while a surge of 6.7 feet was reported in Waveland, Miss., according to the Hurricane Center.

The highest wind gust was recorded at 113 miles an hour overnight in Belle Chasse, Plaquemines Parish, La.

Thursday night into Saturday, Isaac will move into the Mississippi Valley and eventually into Illinois and Indiana with possibly six inches of rain for the drought-stricken Midwest.

Isolated tornadoes are possible along the central Gulf Coast region and part of the lower Mississippi River Valley through Wednesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Entergy New Orleans has listed more than 400,000 homes and businesses without power as of 5:30 a.m., according to their website. The Red Cross reported 18,000 people in 70 shelters across five states Wednesday morning.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Isaac 2012: Storm Makes Landfall in Louisiana

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Hurricane Isaac made landfall Tuesday evening in southeastern Louisiana, with winds of 80 mph that spread out over an area 200 miles wide.

It was a Category 1 hurricane as it came ashore, and the National Hurricane Center warned of "strong winds and a dangerous storm surge occurring along the northern Gulf Coast."

The storm threatened to drop more than a foot of rain -- up to 20 inches in some areas -- from Biloxi, Miss., to New Orleans. The hurricane center said a storm surge -- the bulge of water that a storm pushes ahead of itself -- of 8.8 feet had been measured at Shell Beach, La.

Isaac, a massive and slow-moving storm, reached the coastline just a day short of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Isaac's path is similar to Katrina's and the anniversary has created "a high level of anxiety."

"We don't expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category 1 storm that can kill you," Landrieu said. He urged people to avoid streets likely to flood.

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Usually boisterous New Orleans was a ghost town as tourists and locals heeded warnings and either left town or hunkered down in boarded-up buildings.

Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said it wasn't so much Isaac's strength as the speed at which it was moving that should concern the people living in its path.

"The models show [Isaac's] forward speed slowing down, and that's not good," Knabb said. "When a large system moves slowly, that means a lot of rainfall."

President Obama addressed the nation Tuesday morning, saying that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been on the ground for more than a week working with officials in areas that could be affected.

"I want to encourage all residents of the Gulf Coast to listen to your local officials, and follow their directions, including if they tell you to evacuate," Obama said. "We're dealing with a big storm, and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area."

"Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously," he added.

In advance of the storm, Louisiana set up shelters and stockpiled more than a million packaged meals, 1.4 million bottles of water and 17,000 tarps.

Since the levees failed in Katrina seven years ago, more than $14 billion has been spent on the 133 miles of floodwalls, spillways, gates and pumps surrounding New Orleans. While officials say the city is more prepared now than it was in 2005, it's still taking no chances when it comes to evacuations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dolphin Deaths Worry Experts Along Alabama, Mississippi Coastlines

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images (file)(GULFPORT, Miss.) -- Recent discoveries of dead dolphins along the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines are being described as “an unusual mortality event” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Thirty-four dolphins have already been washed up along shorelines this year – 27 of them calves. Eighteen of the dolphins were found in Mississippi, while another 16 were found on the Alabama coastline. These figures put dolphin deaths at an amount 12 times higher than the 30-year average for the months of January and February, and experts are trying to find out what has caused the recent spike in fatalities.

The 2010 oil spill in the Gulf occurred during the bottlenose dolphin mating season, and there is speculation that something bacterial or viral may be causing female dolphins to abort, but that theory has yet to be confirmed.

The Institute of Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) says it is collecting samples from the animals and will conduct analyses for toxicology, histopathology, virology and parisitology. Results from these analyses will take some time to be processed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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