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With Katrina in mind, residents prepare for Isaac (+video)

Tropical Storm Isaac is predicted to become a Category 2 hurricane by Wednesday, but it is much weaker than Katrina's damaging category 5 status. Still states of emergency were in place throughout much of the Gulf Coast region Monday. 

By Kevin McGillAssociated Press / August 27, 2012

A line of traffic extends down Airline Highway as residents leave the New Orleans area in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaac, in Kenner, La. Isaac is expected to make landfall on the Louisiana coast as a hurricane.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

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NEW ORLEANS

With its massive size and ponderous movement, Tropical Storm Isaac was gaining strength Monday as it headed toward the Gulf Coast. The next 24 hours would determine whether it brought the usual punishing rains and winds — or something even more destructive harkening back to the devastation wrought seven years ago by Hurricane Katrina.

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Residents in New Orleans and the gulf coast of Mississippi prepare for tropical storm Isaac to hit on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The focus has been on New Orleans as Isaac takes dead aim at the city, but the impact will be felt well beyond the city limits. The storm's winds could be felt more than 200 miles from the storm's center.

The Gulf Coast region has been saturated thanks to a wet summer, and some officials have worried more rain could make it easy for trees and power lines to fall over in the wet ground. Too much water also could flood crops, and wind could topple plants such as corn and cotton.

"A large, slow-moving system is going to pose a lot of problems: winds, flooding, storm surge and even potentially down the road river flooding," said Richard Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "That could happen for days after the event."

The storm's potential for destruction was not lost on Alabama farmer Bert Driskell, who raises peanuts, cotton, wheat, cattle and sod on several thousand acres near Grand Bay, in Mobile County.

"We don't need a lot of water this close to harvest," Driskell said.

However, Isaac could bring some relief to places farther inland where farmers have struggled with drought. It also may help replenish a Mississippi River that has at times been so low that barge traffic is halted so engineers can scrape the bottom to deepen it.

Forecasters predicted Isaac would intensify into a Category 2 hurricane, with winds of about 100 mph, by early Wednesday around the time it's expected to make landfall. The current forecast track has the storm aimed at New Orleans, but hurricane warnings extended across 280 miles from Morgan City, La., to the Florida-Alabama state line. It could become the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since 2008.

Evacuations were ordered for some low-lying areas and across the region, people boarded up homes, stocked up on supplies and got ready for the storm. Schools, universities and businesses closed in many places.

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