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Isaac gains strength on path to Louisiana

The National Hurricane Center reported at 8 a.m. EDT today that Tropical Storm Isaac was “on the verge of becoming a hurricane [with] significant storm surge and freshwater flood threat to the northern Gulf Coast.”

Forecasts showed the storm hitting Louisiana’s southeastern shore late today or early Wednesday as a Category 1 hurricane — less powerful than forecasters originally predicted.

The hurricane center advised that people at ports, docks and marinas “urgently complete prescribed preparations according to your emergency operations plan for tropical cyclones. If you live on a boat, make final preparations for securing your craft before leaving it. Be sure to account for the possible closure of bridges and causeways.”

Safety officials warned about making comparisons between Isaac and Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, seven years to the day from when Isaac is expected to strike.

At 8 a.m., Isaac’s center was about 335 miles east-southeast of Cameron, La., and about 230 miles southeast of Morgan City, La., with winds at 70 mph, according to the hurricane center.

The hurricane center warned people not to focus on the exact track predicted for the storm.

“To do so could result in bad decisions and place you or those you are responsible for at greater risk,” the hurricane center’s warning said. “Isaac is expected to continue to move toward the west-northwest while slowly strengthening to a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall in southeast portions of Louisiana. Currently the forecast impacts contain sustained winds of tropical storm force across south-central and east-central sections of Louisiana, with higher gusts.”

“A slight wobble or jog to the west would bring higher winds west, and therefore the tropical storm and hurricane watches remain in effect, as well,” the hurricane center warned.

Energy companies evacuated offshore oil rigs and shut down Gulf Coast refineries as the storm threatened to batter the oil-refining belt. As markets mulled Isaac's potential to tighten fuel supplies, prices for international benchmark Brent crude were up 28 cents, to $112.55 a barrel, in early activity today.

The storm was more than 400 miles wide. Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the worst effects may be in Mississippi and Alabama, according to ABC News.

Click here for the hurricane center’s report and click here for an Associated Press storm tracker that is updated in real time.

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