Gulf Coast Residents Brace For Hurricane Isaac

Debbie Elliott has spent the day driving along the Mississippi coast as people prepare for Isaac. The storm has dumped heavy rain across the area. She speaks with Audie Cornish from Gulfport, Mississippi.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Hurricane Isaac is moving ashore in Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River. As the very large system moves inland, it's expected to create problems for a broad stretch of the Gulf Coast. NPR's Debbie Elliott joins us now from Gulfport, Mississippi. And, Debbie, with Isaac a Category 1 hurricane, what are the conditions like in Mississippi?

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Hi, Audie. We're still pretty far from the eye of this storm but you can really feel the conditions changing. Earlier today, you could even feel the pressure change. You could feel it in your head and your sinuses. Right now, there are these gusty bursts of wind that churn up rain. The rain is kind of coming horizontally but it comes in these waves, it's the outer bands right in front of the storm. And then, the storm is pushing up the surf. So the Mississippi Sound is just what's offshore here. There are barrier islands beyond. But it looks like the Atlantic Ocean. The waves are really high. It's coming up over the beach, onto the sidewalk and over actually Highway 90, the main road through coastal Mississippi. In some places the roads have actually been closed.

CORNISH: What in particular about this storm are people most worried about and what are they doing to prepare?

ELLIOTT: You know it's water is the big issue. There's going to be some storm surge here. It's already happening, but it's not going to be the kind of storm surge that's going to wipe out complete swaths of neighborhoods or anything like that. But this is a huge storm. It's got a lot of moisture in it and that means rain. And forecasters are saying that it will probably slow down once it comes ashore, and it will meander here and there, and just continually dump rain in an area that's already been pretty saturated. So flooding. Coastal flooding is a big issue. People who - are live in low-lying areas have been asked to evacuate, to get out because the water is going to rise.

Right now, just under a thousand people already in shelters in Mississippi. There's a curfew underway. The roads are pretty deserted. Businesses, you know, closed, boarded up. Cellophane wraps over gas pumps here and there. So people have really battened down in advance of the storm.

CORNISH: Debbie, just a few seconds left, but are people making much of this storm coming on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina?

ELLIOTT: Of course they are. And it's a little scary for some and the scars, of course, still very visible here of Hurricane Katrina. But this is also not as powerful a storm, so people are watching. They're careful. They're taking precautions. But they know that this is not going to have that kind of a devastating impact as Katrina did seven years ago.

CORNISH: NPR's Debbie Elliott in Gulfport, Mississippi. Thank you, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: Thank you, Audie.

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