As Tropical Storm Isaac bore down on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Tuesday, President Obama issued a televised warning to residents to prepare for possible evacuations.
“Now is not the time to tempt fate,” Mr. Obama said at the White House. “Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously.”
While no evacuation orders have been given for New Orleans, the president urged residents to follow closely reports from state and local emergency officials. Residents of low-lying areas outside the city have been ordered to evacuate.
“I want to encourage all residents of the Gulf Coast to listen to your local officials and follow their directions, including if they tell you to evacuate,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re dealing with a big storm, and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area.”
Isaac was near hurricane force as it bore down on the U.S. Gulf Coast and was expected to make landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday in the New Orleans area, seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.
The storm’s fierce winds, torrential rain and storm surge could pose a major test of New Orleans’ rebuilt flood-control systems. The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will make landfall near southeastern Louisiana.
While emergency preparations are being made, the storm is also forcing political considerations for both parties.
The president thus far isn’t changing his campaign schedule due to the storm. About 30 minutes after speaking at the White House about emergency operations, Mr. Obama departed Washington for a two-day campaign swing that will take him to college campuses in the battleground states of Iowa and Colorado.
On Wednesday, the president also is scheduled to make a campaign appearance in Charlottesville, Va. The Democratic National Convention will be held next week in Charlotte, N.C.
Isaac spared Tampa, Fla., where the Republican National Convention began on Monday, prompting party leaders to shorten and revise their schedule. Republicans may have to make further schedule changes, not wanting to appear to be reveling in Mitt Romney’s presidential nomination while the storm is battering Gulf Coast residents.
Energy companies evacuated offshore oil rigs and shut down refineries as Isaac bore down on the Gulf Coast. The storm is expected to cause oil and gas prices to rise temporarily.
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, killing more than 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars of damage.