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.
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Isaac comes almost exactly seven years to day after Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, killing more than 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars of damage.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Hurricane Isaac
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The Army Corps of Engineers has since built a $14.5 billion defense system of walls, floodgates, levees and pumps designed to protect the city from a massive tidal surge like that which swamped New Orleans in Katrina's wake.
Most of the city's Lower Ninth ward, still scarred by the devastation of Katrina, was deserted on Tuesday. Residents who had not evacuated stocked up on water, food and fuel.
"We've got all kinds of eats and treats," Arthur Anderson, 61, who was trapped in the attic of his house during Katrina before he escaped by boat.
Authorities have urged thousands of residents in low-lying areas to leave, warning that the storm could flood towns and cities in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as Louisiana, with a storm surge of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters).
Rainfall accumulations, potentially totaling as much as 20 inches (50 cm) in some areas, could trigger widespread flooding. Customers in Louisiana's coastal parishes were already without power.
Isaac has not been forecast to strengthen beyond a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. Its winds have been forecast at up to 80 mph (129 kph). While this would be well below the intensity of Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm, the size of Isaac's slow-moving system has had forecasters predicting widespread flooding.
Residents of Louisiana's low-lying Plaquemines Parish, where some flooding was already happening on Tuesday, were anxious about their homes.
Avenal Terrance, 52, who was evacuated early on Tuesday, is hoping the levee holds up. "I'm living in an old trailer, not a new one, and I just hope and pray that the storm doesn't take it," she said.
U.S. energy output disrupted
With more than 90 percent of offshore U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil production shut down and nearly half of natural gas output offline, energy companies along the Gulf Coast refining center braced for the storm's impact, shuttering some plants and running others at reduced rates ahead of Isaac's landfall.
Intense hurricanes such as Katrina -- which took out 4.5 million barrels per day of refining capacity at one point -- have flooded refineries, keeping them closed for extended periods and reducing fuel supplies.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that about 12 percent of the Gulf Coast's refining capacity had gone offline. Louisiana usually processes more than 3 million barrels per day of crude into products like gasoline.
Although no damage to offshore installation was reported, some energy experts said the sweeping disruption of oil production, refineries and key import terminals could make it more likely that the U.S. government would release oil supplies from its nearly 696-million-barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
A release, which had previously been under consideration, is still on the table, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.
International benchmark Brent crude traded down slightly to $112 a barrel on Tuesday.
IN PICTURES: Hurricane Isaac