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Hurricane Isaac hits land in Louisiana (+video)

As Hurricane Isaac struck New Orleans Tuesday, the city's mayor Mitch Landrieu told residents, 'your city is secure.' Emergency services are ready for search and rescue missions if necessary. Residents in low-lying areas have been encouraged to leave. 

By Scott Malone and Kathy FinnReuters / August 28, 2012

A mandatory evacuation is put in place in Jean Lafitte in Jefferson Parish as Hurricane Isaac reaches southern Louisiana.

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor

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NEW ORLEANS

Hurricane Isaac crashed ashore in southeast Louisiana on Tuesday, bringing high winds and soaking rains that pose the first test for multibillion-dollar flood defenses put in place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast seven years ago.

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Flood-control systems and levees failed when Katrina hit in 2005, leaving parts of the New Orleans underwater. Troops and law enforcement officials have been deployed throughout the city this week to prevent a repeat of the chaos and looting that followed in the days and weeks after Katrina.

Isaac killed at least 23 people and caused significant flooding and damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic before skirting the southern tip of Florida on Sunday.

IN PICTURES: Hurricane Isaac

The effects of the large, slow-moving storm were felt along the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Storm surge caused flooding in Louisiana and winds gusted to 62 miles per hour (96 kph) in New Orleans, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu assured residents "your city is secure," and said emergency services were ready for search and rescue missions. This raised the specter of Katrina, when Coast Guard helicopters plucked stranded residents from the roofs of their flooded houses.

"We're in the heart of this fight," Landrieu told an evening news conference. "We are in the hunker-down phase."

About 1,000 U.S. National Guard troops in military vehicles took up positions on the city's mostly deserted streets, brandishing automatic assault rifles to ward off any threat of looting.

Isaac spared Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention began on Monday. But it forced party leaders to revamp their schedule. They may have to make further revisions so as not to be seen celebrating Mitt Romney's presidential nomination while Gulf Coast residents struggle through the storm.

President Barack Obama urged residents to take cover and heed warnings, saying that now was "not the time to tempt fate." . He issued emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi earlier this week.

On Tuesday morning, army engineers closed the massive new floodgate at Lake Borgne, east of New Orleans, for the first time. It is largest storm-surge barrier in the world.

In other preparations, oil production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico nearly ground to a halt, and ports and coastal refineries curtailed operations.

At 7 p.m. CDT (2400 GMT), the Hurricane Center said Isaac was centered about 90 miles (140 km) southeast of New Orleans with top sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (130 kph).

The storm was traveling at a relatively slow 8 mph (13 kph). The sluggish pace is a concern for people in its path since slow-moving cyclones can bring higher rainfall.

Isaac was about 370 miles (595 km) wide. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (97 km) from the center of the storm. Heavy rains and big storm surges were also forecast for parts of Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

Nearly 70,000 people in Louisiana were without electricity.

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