Storm Isaac could replicate Katrina

Winsky Pierre, left, 5, helps to drain mud from his flooded house after the passing of Tropical Storm Isaac in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday Aug. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

NEW ORLEANS — As Tropical Storm Isaac moved steadily toward Louisiana, residents geared up Monday for what has become an almost familiar Labor Day week event.

On Sunday, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, and officials in some coastal parishes either ordered evacuations or strongly suggested people leave low-lying areas.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu also declared a state of emergency but said there are no plans to evacuate the city. Landrieu urged residents to hunker down and prepare for the possibility for several days without power.

Grocery and home improvement stores as well as fuel stations reported brisk business. Some gas stations were running out of supplies.

John Corll, 59, a carpenter, rode out Hurricane Katrina seven years ago and was preparing for a milder storm.

“I gassed up — truck and generator,” Corll said as he walked out of a New Orleans coffee shop Monday morning.

He expressed confidence that the area’s levee system — rebuilt with billions of federal dollars after Katrina — will withstand Isaac.

And he thinks officials emergency management officials have a better handle on the situation than when Katrina struck in August 2005.

“I think the state and local governments are much better prepared for the storm surge and emergencies,” he said.

Isaac, bedeviling forecasters who continued to shift its path westward, was most likely to come ashore by Wednesday, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

An estimated 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded during Katrina. Damage and death was extensive across southern sections of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and rebuilding costs soared into the many billions of dollars.

Adding to the Labor Day week mystique, in 2011, Tropical Storm Lee struck over the Labor Day period, and Hurricane Gustav hit over the Labor Day holiday in 2008. Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005.

While Isaac was not expected to approach Katrina’s strength— or Gustav’s— forecasters said it should bring high winds, heavy rain and a storm surge of up to 12 feet into coastal Louisiana and Mississippi. On its projected path, it would drive inland, possibly bringing heavy rain to drought-parched heartland states.

Some schools systems and universities in southeast Louisiana were closed through Wednesday or were considering closures.

Jefferson Parish President John Young said the New Orleans suburb is preparing for Isaac but expects that pumping and levee improvements made since Katrina will be adequate to deal with Isaac.

In coastal Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, parish officials were handing out sandbags to residents to shore up their properties.

State transportation officials suspended tolls on the Louisiana Highway 1 bridge in Lafourche Parish to help with coastal evacuation. Tolls also were suspended on the Crescent City Connection, the bridge that links downtown New Orleans with communities on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

The storm blew through Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Sunday. A Haiti government official says that the country’s death toll from Tropical Storm Isaac has jumped to 19.

Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste of the country’s Civil Protection Office gave few details on how each person died in the storm that drenched Haiti over the weekend.

The total regional death toll from Tropical Storm Isaac is now at 21.; two people died in the Dominican Republic after they were swept away in a river.

Some of the Haitians died because their homes fell on top of them.

Haiti is prone to flooding and mudslides because much of the country is heavily deforested and rainwater rushes down barren mountainsides.

— Associated Press