As of the 1 a.m. Tuesday update from the National Hurricane Center, Isaac’s winds were still at 70 mph, just shy of hurricane force, and its path continued to center on New Orleans. Forecasters expected the winds to accelerate to hurricane speeds overnight, and for New Orleans to begin feeling its effects in earnest Tuesday morning.
“Sustained tropical storm-force winds are expected to begin early Tuesday morning and hurricane-force winds early Wednesday morning,” wrote the National Hurricane Center forecasters at 11 p.m. Monday. “Hurricane-force winds are forecast to last for many hours. Maximum winds are forecast to be in the 55 to 75 mph range with gusts to 90 mph.”
In fact, the Hurricane Center called for a 100-percent chance of tropical-storm force winds in New Orleans, and better than even odds of hurricane force winds.
“We are going to have a hurricane that is going to hit New Orleans,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a news conference Monday at noon.More than a foot of rain is expected Tuesday and Wednesday, as the large, slow-moving storm takes several days to pass out of the area. Some of local officials’ sternest words Monday were for drivers (or boaters) who travel at more than 5 mph down flooded streets, creating wakes that can damage other vehicles or homes.
“We will enforce that with zero tolerance,” said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas of the 5-mph speed limit on flooded streets.
Among Landrieu’s exhortations to New Orleanians who plan to ride out the storm were to have enough water, at least a gallon per person in the home per day, for a minimum of three days. He cautioned against hazards “that can kill you:” driving or walking in flooded streets, getting hit by flying debris during high winds, misusing a generator or touching downed power lines.
City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, whose District A includes much of the Carrollton and university areas, said all contractors were expected to have their sites secured by Monday afternoon to prevent flying debris. (At the LaSalle School currently under renovation, for example, all loose materials were moved inside, developer Jim MacPhaille told the Upper Hurstville Residents’ Association.) She urged parents to caution their children about stray animals that become lost during the storm, as even normally docile pets can become dangerous when lost.
Councilwoman-at-Large Stacy Head, who represented Uptown-based District B until this spring, said she did not anticipate many problems from New Orleanians, other than a few who might drink too much before the storm.
“When I was driving around during Gustav, people seemed to be acting very responsibly,” Head said.
At the NOPD’s Sixth District station, which covers much of the area from Napoleon Avenue to Central City, Lt. Frank Young urged that officers make sure their families were well out harm’s way Monday afternoon, in case the department switched to 12-hour shifts, or if officers had to ride out the storm at the station. Police will respond as best they can throughout the storm, but there will likely be a period where winds are too high for officers to be able to leave the station safely, Young said.
“I promise you, everything is going to be fine. All you have to do is get here,” Young told the second-shift officers. “But when you show up to work, you don’t want to have questions about whether your family is safe.”
Later on Monday evening, Lt. Rodney Bailey reiterated many of themes of Landrieu’s news conference to the Sixth District night-shift officers. Only take suspects to jail for major crimes — just write court summonses for minor offenses, he said, but strictly enforce the 5-mph speed limit on flooded streets. Likewise, do not drive the police cars through standing water, he said — another storm could come right behind Isaac, but no new patrol cars are on the way.
“You cannot help anyone if you drown those vehicles out,” Bailey said.
Around Uptown on Monday evening, plywood covered numerous windows, especially the plate glass fronting many businesses. Only a handful residents were taking advantage of the city’s offer of free parking along the St. Charles and South Claiborne avenue neutral grounds, however.