Hurricane Isaac is moving along a northwestern path, dumping heavy rain and lashing the coast with whipping winds, as it hovers over Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
"Isaac [is] moving slowly along the coast of southeast Louisiana and producing a dangerous storm surge," the National Hurricane Center reported on Isaac, which is now a 350-mile-wide Category 1 hurricane. "Flooding from rainfall [is] also expected."
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, the storm was about 45 miles from New Orleans, with winds gusting up to 80 mph.
The NHC reports that dangerous storm surge and flood threats are likely to continue through tonight. A hurricane warning remains in effect from east of Morgan City, La., to the Mississippi-Alabama border.
“Isaac is skirting the coast and is half-inland, half-offshore, and as a result, has not weakened,” National Weather Service Chief Meteorologist Ken Graham told Bloomberg in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We’re going to have strong tropical-storm force winds with hurricane gusts almost all day today in some areas. You’re going to start losing trees, having more power outages and more flooding.”
On Tuesday night, residents in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were told to leave or hunker down.
As Isaac inched along its path on Wednesday -- on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina -- it left 494,000 Louisiana customers without power, 158,000 of them in Orleans Parish, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A surge overtopped an 8-foot levee in Plaquemines Parish, La., MSNBC reports. Up to 12 feet of water flooded the streets and left up to 60 people stranded as of 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Hurricane Isaac 2012 path. (Story continues below.)
"We have flooding, inundated four-to-nine feet in areas on that side" of the levee, parish emergency management official Guy Laigast told the Weather Channel, according to MSNBC. "We've got homes that have been inundated. We have folks who are trapped in their residences."
"It's piling that water up on the east side of the Mississippi River," Laigast added. "All that water is ponding up in that area and that's what's causing the overtopping."
"Areas further inland like Jackson haven't felt the brunt of Isaac yet," according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger. "It's slow movement means of worst of what's to come -- drenching rain -- may not arrive until late Wednesday and Thursday." However, in south Mississippi, the Gulf Coast Electric Power Association already reported 12,000 customers without power in Harrison, Hancock and Pearl River counties.
In Alabama, National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Garmon said the biggest danger to the state's coast was a storm surge between 6 and 8 feet late Tuesday/early Wednesday with a rainfall up to 10 inches, The Associated Press reported.
"With New Orleans being under threat and Mississippi, we've got a lot of calls from folks wanting to come over here and stay during the storm," Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon told The AP. "So we've let them know we're open for business and we welcome them. We don't expect any road closures, anything that would prevent them from coming over."
This exemplifies President Barack Obama's message to help each other.
"When disaster strikes, we're not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first," Obama said at a campaign rally at Iowa State University. "We're one family. We help our neighbors in need."