Isaac was on the verge of becoming a hurricane early Tuesday, forecasters said, and was on a course that revived horrible memories for residents of Louisiana.
Tropical Storm Isaac was predicted to reach shore Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning in Louisiana with a storm surge of 6-12 feet, the National Hurricane Center said.
Should the storm make landfall Wednesday in Louisiana, it will do so on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 and killed some 1,800 people.
Even so, Isaac won't pack the same punch. It could be a minimal Category 1 storm, while Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds.
As much as 14 to 20 inches of rain are predicted for southern regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and the extreme western Panhandle of Florida.
Officials in those states have suggested residents along the coast head for higher ground. In Mississippi, 1,500 National Guard troops have been ordered into the state's southern counties to help with emergency operations.
At 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the storm's winds were 70 mph, just under hurricane force, and the center of the storm was about 105 south southeast of the Mississippi River and about 185 miles south-southeast of Biloxi, Miss.
Tropical storm force winds extend more than 200 miles from the storm center.
The storm was moving northwest at 7 mph.
Coastal communities from the Alabama-Florida state line west to Morgan City, La., were under a hurricane watch. That arc includes metropolitan New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas.
Forecasters are also watching Tropical Storm Ileana off the western coast of Mexico. It was about 520 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California at 5 a.m. EDT. The system had maximum sustained winds or 45 mph and was moving west northwest at 12 mph, away from land.
No coastal watches or warnings are in effect for Ileana.
Republican leaders at the party's national convention in Tampa, Fla., expressed concern that Isaac's striking around the Katrina anniversary could remind voters of the George W. Bush administration's response, which party officials admitted was a symbol of collective GOP incompetence, they don't want to revive.
Isaac was also expected to topple mobile homes, uproot and snap trees and cause widespread power outages, possibly lasting a few days in some areas, officials said.
And although it is the least intense type of hurricane, it still has the power to cause widespread damage and threaten lives, they said.
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