CHAUVIN, La. (AP) — Isaac became a hurricane Tuesday that could flood the coasts of four states with storm surge and heavy rains on its way to New Orleans, where residents hunkered down behind levees fortified after Katrina struck seven years ago this week.
Shelters opened for those who chose to stay or missed the chance to get away before the outer bands of the large storm blow ashore ahead of a forecast landfall in southeast Louisiana on Tuesday night or early Wednesday. However, with the exception of some low-lying areas, officials had not ordered mass evacuations.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Isaac became a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday with winds of 75 mph. It could get stronger by the time it's expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana.
President Barack Obama said Gulf Coast residents should listen to local authorities and follow their directions as Isaac approached.
"Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously," Obama said.
In Houma, a city southwest of New Orleans, people filled a municipal auditorium-turned-shelter. However, in the bayou country of Terrebonne Parish off Highway 24, storms pose a perennial dilemma for those living a hardscrabble life.
While some of the homes along Bayou Terrebonne and other nearby waterways show signs of affluence, this section of Louisiana 24 is mostly lined with trailer homes or small, often run-down houses. Staying could be dangerous, but many here who could be in harm's way have nowhere to go and little money to get there, especially given the high price of gasoline.
Monica Boudreaux lives in a trailer on low-lying land but was talking Tuesday morning with a cousin who lived closer to the bayou. They and two friends chatted as the storm approached. Boudreaux laughed when asked what she'll do if the storm hits.