Isaac Hits Gulf Coast On Katrina Anniversary

The Mississippi Gulf Coast took a lashing overnight from Hurricane Isaac. A big storm surge, tropical force winds and pounding rain hit the area. But in some ways, the memory of Hurricane Katrina makes it harder for a much weaker hurricane like Isaac to garner that same sense of urgency.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

As we said, the storm is having an impact across a large area. This report comes from NPR's Debbie Elliott, across the state line in Mississippi.

(SOUNDBITE OF WIND, RAIN)

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: As Isaac moved ashore near the mouth of Mississippi River in neighboring Louisiana, outer bands of the hurricane swept into Gulfport, Mississippi.

JUDY MOORE: Oh, here come the wind.

ELLIOTT: Judy and George Moore watch from the wide front porch of their home, just a block from the churned-up waters of the Mississippi Sound.

GEORGE MOORE: We're listening to the wind and...

JUDY MOORE: And listening. We got...

GEORGE MOORE: ...the water.

JUDY MOORE: We figure, we got concrete siding now; we got metal roof; we got hurricane windows, hurricane shutters. So we think we'd be all right - a lot better than the one before.

ELLIOTT: "The one before" meaning Katrina. Seven years ago today, their house was washed away.

JUDY MOORE: On the same day.

GEORGE MOORE: Yeah...

JUDY MOORE: Is that weird? That is so weird.

ELLIOTT: The house is elevated now, and better able to withstand both the storm surge and the intermittent downpours.

JUDY MOORE: You don't mess with water, especially in a hurricane.

ELLIOTT: And that's the message that government officials have been trying to get across for the past few days. But in some ways, the memory of Katrina makes it harder for a much weaker hurricane - like Isaac - to garner that same sense of urgency. That's been a worry for Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

CRAIG FUGATE: Well, you know, I'm from Florida, so I'm used to it. People have gone through worse hurricanes; they go, well, this is no Katrina. We agree, but you've got to understand that sometimes, it isn't always the wind speed that's the greatest danger. Sometimes, it can be those heavy rains.

ELLIOTT: Fugate, in Mississippi to help stage supplies as part of the federal response, says Isaac's landfall is by no means the end of the crisis.

FUGATE: You've got to understand, this storm's going to move slow, and the risk is a lot of rain. So people that live inland may be thinking well, this is something - going to hit the coast; and because it's only a Category 1 hurricane, it won't be that bad.

It's moving so slow that the Hurricane Center - and the Weather Service - are very concerned about very heavy rainfall well up into Mississippi and parts of Louisiana, even Alabama.

ELLIOTT: He says people as far north as the capital in Jackson - 160 miles inland - should brace for flooding. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Gulfport, Mississippi.

GREENE: And you can stay tuned throughout the morning - and throughout the day - as we cover the impact of Hurricane Isaac along the Gulf Coast. You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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