Late Tuesday evening Isaac came ashore as a category 1 hurricane near the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana, drenching land stretching into the Gulf of Mexico and causing widespread power outages.
Packing more of a punch than originally projected, Isaac knocked out power lines and compelled several reluctant evacuees to retreat to their roofs while awaiting emergency rescue. Reportedly three adults and an infant were rescued overnight via houseboat.
Entergy and Cleco power companies estimate that more than half a million—approximately 522,000—customers are currently without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as a result. Company representatives cautioned that attempts to restore power will not be initiated until Isaac’s winds fall below 30 miles per hour.
Many fear the worst is yet to come. Although the slow-moving storm is much less powerful than Katrina, which smashed into New Orleans with unrelenting force seven years ago today, Isaac’s violent winds and oppressive rains are already testing the multibillion-dollar barrier system put in place after Katrina.
Earlier today, the hurricane pushed water over a levee on the outskirts of New Orleans, but despite mixed reports, did not breach the levees built to protect the city. Emergency officials in Plaquemines Parish, however, did cite the “overtopping of an 8-foot high levee” between the Braithwaite and White Ditch districts southeast of New Orleans.
Heavy rains are expected to persist in the coming days, and the immediate concerns are storm surge and massive flooding. Having already caused an estimated $1 billion in economic losses for offshore energy properties, Isaac’s impact on land-dwelling enterprises could be even higher. Eqecat has projected that various categories of insured losses along the coast of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico could reach $1.5 billion. A more robust estimate is expected to be released once the storm passes over New Orleans.