Tropical Storm Isaac rolled over the open Gulf of Mexico on Monday, where it was expected to grow into a hurricane before hitting land somewhere between Louisiana and Florida and close to the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The storm that left eight dead in Haiti blew past the Florida Keys with little damage and promised a drenching but little more for Tampa, where the planned Monday start of the Republican National Convention was pushed back a day in case Isaac passed closer to the bayside city.
The National Hurricane Center predicted Isaac would grow to a Category 1 hurricane over the warm Gulf and possibly hit late Tuesday somewhere along a roughly 300-mile (500-kilometer) stretch from the bayous southwest of New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle. That would be one day shy of seven years after Hurricane Katrina struck catastrophically in 2005.
The size of the warning area and the storm’s wide bands of rain and wind prompted emergency declarations in four states, and the hurricane-tested residents were boarding up homes, sticking up on food and water or getting ready to evacuate.
Forecasters said Isaac could pack a double punch of flood threats for the Gulf Coast. If it hits during high tide, the storm could push floodwaters as deep as 12 feet (four meters) on shore in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and up to six feet in the Florida Panhandle.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called a state of emergency, and 53,000 residents of St. Charles Parish near New Orleans were told to leave ahead of the storm. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley also declared states of emergency.
Florida, historically the state most prone to hurricanes, has been hurricane-free since it was hit four times each in 2004 and 2005. Isaac will likely prove barely a memory for South Florida and Keys residents, who mostly took the storm in stride as its center passed just south of Key West on Sunday.
The storm did knock out power temporarily for around 16,000 customers throughout South Florida, and 555 flights were canceled at Miami International Airport. That forced some people to shuffle their travel plans and kept many, at least for a day, from enjoying their beach vacations.
In the low-lying Keys, isolated patches of flooding were reported and some roads were littered with downed palm fronds and small branches. But officials said damage appeared to be minimal, and many Keys residents held true to their any-excuse-for-a-party reputation.
Before reaching Florida, Isaac was blamed for eight deaths in Haiti and two more in the Dominican Republic, and downed trees and power lines in Cuba. It bore down on the Keys two days after the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, which caused more than $25 billion in damage and killed 26 people in South Florida.