New Orleans asks: will Hurricane Isaac be as bad as Katrina?

On the eve of the seventh anniversary of the devastating storm, a new hurricane menaces Louisiana

LAST UPDATED AT 13:41 ON Tue 28 Aug 2012

TROPICAL STORM Isaac is bearing down on New Orleans on the eve of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,800 in the Louisiana city on 29 August 2005.

Isaac is currently over the Gulf of Mexico and is strengthening as it heads towards the coast. While many people are evacuating and heading to higher ground, others are determined to ride out the storm in their homes.

IS ISAAC A TROPICAL STORM OR HURRICANE?
Although Isaac is still a tropical storm, it is currently strengthening. The National Hurricane Centre says it expects Isaac to become a category 1 hurricane some time today, before strengthening to category 2, with winds of about 100mph, early tomorrow when it is expected to make landfall. Forecasters warned of a "significant storm surge and freshwater flood threat to the northern Gulf coast".

DOESN'T THIS HAPPEN EVERY YEAR?
Hurricanes sweep the Gulf of Mexico most years, but a 'Hurricane Isaac' would be the first to make landfall on the US Gulf Coast since 2008, according to CBS.

WILL ISAAC BE AS BAD AS HURRICANE KATRINA?
No. Even if Hurricane Isaac strengthens to category 3 – the same as Katrina – the situation in New Orleans has improved since 2005. The city now boasts a $14.5 billion flood defence system, comprising walls, floodgates, levees and pumps, according to CNBC.

The infrastructure is designed to protect against a massive storm surge of the kind that swamped New Orleans seven years ago. According to CNN, one pumping station is the biggest in the world and can move as much as 150,000 gallons of floodwater per second.

WHAT KIND OF DISRUPTION IS LIKELY?
Richard Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Centre in Miami told CBS that winds, flooding and storm surges are possible. Days after the hurricane passes, there is a risk of river flooding. The Gulf Coast region is already saturated because of a wet summer. Trees and power lines could easily fall over if the wet ground receives more rain. Crop plants such as corn and cotton are also vulnerable.

IS THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION THREATENED?
In Tampa, Florida, the Republican party convention was delayed by one day due to fears of disruption. With media coverage revolving around the hurricane, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faces a headache. As the Boston Globe reports, "Romney's top aides and convention planners were juggling their desire for a robust rouse-the-Republicans convention with concern about appearing uncaring as New Orleans faced a threat from Isaac precisely seven years after the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina."

HAS ISAAC CAUSED DEVASTATION ELSEWHERE?
The storm killed at least 19 people when it swept through Haiti at the weekend. Aid workers are still assessing the damage to homes and crops. · 

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