Afternoon Update: Officials Urge Residents to Heed Tropical Storm Isaac Warnings
In a call with reporters late this morning, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate and National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb expressed concern that because the current storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast is called a Tropical Storm or may not go past a category 1 hurricane, people in its path are not preparing adequately for severe weather and may not heed evacuation orders.
Knabb said that the size of the storm, which could extend 200 miles from the eye, could mean a large area of severe weather impacting several states, even if it remains a tropical storm. States that could be affected include Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida, and storm surge, would could be six to 12 feet above ground level, could cause dangerous flash and river flooding.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and Air Force planes are flying into the storm to determine its path and severity. FEMA Administrator Fugate said he’s concerned that peoples’ minds will be on Katrina, because the anniversary of that storm is this week , and not realize that “the threat with Isaac is not a [single] point, but a large area.”
Knabb said that peoples’ perceived understanding of hurricane strength could lead them to think they’re not in danger, however, a tropical storm is strong enough to produce wind and wind damage, and “winds of a storm that’s projected to be as large as the one they’re watching, can move inland,” said Knabb. The other key concern is that the storm will slow down as it comes ashore which could bring the record rainfalls and storm surge.
Fugate said FEMA is briefing state and local managers continuously, that today is the preparation day for people in the storm’s path and that evacuation orders are serious and based on the potential for loss of life for those who could potentially come into the path of the storm, storm surge or river or flash flooding. “Wherever people are going, they need to get there tonight, said Knabb, who also cautioned that if the rainfall is significant, river flooding could start days after the event and be severe. “We’ve lost a lot of lives from river flooding in the past,” Knabb said. FEMA advises checking advisories and not returning home after a storm until receiving an official all clear.
Asked about lessons from Katrina that is helping preparations for this storm, Fugate said, “We’ve learned to work with communities and states as a team.”
>>Critical Link: Follow NOAA for Isaac updates.