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New Orleans Mayor: Hunker Down For Isaac

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the city is ready to face Tropical Storm Isaac.

Noting that Isaac should arrive at the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Landrieu said Monday that officials feel very good about the ability to cope with Isaac.

Landrieu declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

While he urged about 900 residents who live outside levee protection in eastern New Orleans to evacuate, he said there are no plans to call for a mandatory evacuation of the city.

“We don’t at this moment intend to call a mandatory evacuation,” Landrieu said. The mayor said a mandatory evacuation would come if Isaac attained category 3 strength on the 5-point Saffir-Simpson scale. But with the storm getting close to Louisiana, he said it would be difficult for everyone in the city of 455,000 to leave.

Landrieu told residents to hunker down and make due with supplies on hand.

“It’s going to be all right,” Landrieu said.

As Isaac moved steadily toward Louisiana, residents geared up 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.

Evacuations were ordered in low-lying some coastal parishes.

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 when it struck on August 29, 2005. 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.

The Coast Guard said barges were being moved inland on the Mississippi River. Ship traffic was halted at the river’s mouth on Sunday night.

Officials of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport said flights were continuing, but carriers such as Southwest, United and American were planning to cancel flights on Tuesday.

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.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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