As Hurricane Isaac makes its way onto the Louisiana coast and into New Orleans, President Barack Obama will reportedly make a live statement from the White House at 10 a.m. The address will broadcasted on all major TV news networks as well as live streamed via the White House website.
While many are comparing Isaac to the catastrophe that was Katrina, the storm that hit exactly seven years ago registered as a monster category three hurricane. As residents of the Gulf Coast are taking every precaution to prepare for Isaac, forecasters are predicting that it will make landfall as a relatively weak hurricane. Despite the estimates, the cyclone has triggered evacuations and an emergency declaration in Louisiana.
According to the latest advisory for the National Hurricane Center, the central pressure of the storm has dropped and the winds around the center are picking up speed. "Strengthening might be imminent," the center said.
The most recent forecasts indicate that Isaac will make landfall along the Mississippi or Southeast Louisiana coast as a hurricane with 85 mph winds.
At 5 a.m. ET, Isaac's winds remained at 70 mph -- just under hurricane strength, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported. In addition, Isaac was centered about 125 miles (201 kilometers) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, and it was moving to the northwest at 12 mph.
"Strengthening is forecast, and Isaac is likely to become a hurricane later today," forecasters said Tuesday. "Additional strengthening is forecast until the center moves inland."
Despite the location of the hurricane's center, tropical storm-force winds extended more than 200 miles from the eye, and hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border. Storm warnings were also put in place eastward to Destin, Florida, and westward from Morgan City to Cameron, Louisiana, about 200 miles west of New Orleans.
Forecasters are also predicting rain in the amount of 18 inches in a few areas of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and the extreme western Florida panhandle, the hurricane center said.
While New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he has not ordered an evacuation of his city, most of which is below sea level and protected by a network of levees, others in low-lying Louisiana parishes and in coastal counties and barrier islands of Mississippi, Alabama and northwest Florida were told to clear out ahead of the storm.
State Emergency Management Agency Director Art Faulkner of Alabama warned that strong winds and high water may affect the Mobile area even if the storm hits as far west as Louisiana.
"It is a very large storm," Faulkner said. "And oftentimes we confuse and focus on a specific dot that may be identified as the center of the storm when very dangerous conditions may exist as far as 200 miles from that specific dot."
The storm lashed Cuba and the Florida Keys over the weekend after slamming into Haiti, where at least 19 people had been reported dead by Monday, the country's civil protection agency reported.