NEW ORLEANS has become a virtual ghost town as residents lock up and stay indoors, or evacuate the city and head inland, as Hurricane Isaac makes landfall in Louisiana.
The hurricane made landfall at 12:45am Irish time (6:45pm local) at the mouth of the Mississippi river, beginning a slow movement on a path that brought it just to the west of New Orleans, which is about 70 miles north of the rivermouth.
The US National Hurricane Center in Miami said the hurricane had essentially crawled to a standstill just over off the coast at about 8am Irish time, and that it had made landfall again at 8:15am.
The timing of its arrival in Louisiana is grim: today marks the seventh anniversary of the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, which killed over 1,800 people and caused over $100 billion in damage to New Orleans and surrounding areas.
Issac, while a Category 1 hurricane, is far less powerful than Katrina – but has nonetheless left about 200,000 homes without power, and seen sea levels surge by up to 11 feet in some parts of Louisiana.
New Orleans city mayor Mitch Landrieu said authorities did not “expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category 1 storm that can kill you.”
Authorities have also invested $14 billion in an upgraded levee system since Katrina, which sheltered the city largely well from Hurricane Gustav four years ago.
“I feel safe,” one resident – living in a new two-storey house, replacing one which had been flattened by Katrina – told AP. ”If the wind isn’t too rough, I can stay right here. If the water comes up, I can go upstairs.”