Return to Transcripts main page


New Orleans Prepares for Hurricane Isaac

Aired August 28, 2012 - 19:00   ET



JIM MORET, HOST: Breaking news, live pictures of Hurricane Isaac as it gets stronger and approaches the Gulf Coast. And landfall is just hours away.

I`m Jim Moret from "Inside Edition" in for my friend Jane Velez- Mitchell.

Isaac is already dumping rain and bringing high winds to the Gulf Coast, and it will only get worse. Is the memory of Hurricane Katrina making residents more wary of this storm? We`ll go live to New Orleans and talk to a hurricane tracker who`s actually in the hurricane. All that coming up next.


MORET (voice-over): Tonight, breaking news as Hurricane Isaac closes in on the Gulf Coast. The massive storm is expected to make landfall later tonight. This is the same area that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina just seven years ago. Is this area ready for another dangerous storm? Tonight, we`ll talk to storm chasers who are following the hurricane and reporters on the scene, bringing you the very latest live from New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attention all citizens on Grand Isle, we have a mandatory evacuation as of 1 p.m.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tropical Storm Isaac is history. It`s Hurricane Isaac now.

ED LAVANDERA,, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This storm and where we are right now really we expect to be at the very center of Hurricane Isaac as it gets closer to making landfall.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain, you`re under a hurricane warning. Twenty-three parishes, Louisiana. In fact, all of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, the shoreline, of course, of the Mississippi.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just got another rain band from a tropical -- well, now, Hurricane Isaac. I know it`s just increased in strength. It`s kind of sweeping in over the Mississippi River here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not let this storm lull you into complacency. That would be a terrible mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now we are on a wing and a prayer. You know? A lot of prayers.


MORET: Breaking news tonight as Hurricane Isaac bears down on the Gulf Coast. In particular New Orleans, Louisiana. The storm is expected to make landfall any time now. And right now it is being classified as a Category 1 storm with winds estimated at 80 miles an hour.

We`re looking at live video coming in from the area in New Orleans. You can see exactly what is happening right now along the Gulf Coast. It is pounding the region with heavy rain, strong winds. All of that could get even more dangerous in the hours ahead.

Isaac has already left destruction and flooding in its path. Residents are being told to take this storm seriously. Emergency leaders say just because it`s a Category 1 does not mean it is not dangerous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have dodged a bullet in the sense that this is not a Category 3 storm, but a Category 1. At this strength from 85 to 100- mile-an-hour winds with 125-miles-an-hour gusts is plenty big enough to put a big hurt on you.


MORET: Airports are closed. So is Amtrak service in and out of New Orleans. And many residents are subject to a dusk-to-dawn curfew at this time. Besides strong winds, Isaac could bring 20 inches of rain in many places. Seven parishes have announced mandatory evacuations. Forty-one others have issued emergency declarations. But still there are those who would rather stay put.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve been in the wild. Seen animals floating. Everything. So it don`t faze me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we are, tied up, beautiful day and we got a thunderstorm. That`s the way I look at it.


MORET: Of course what everyone wants to know, they want to avoid what happened seven years ago when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coast. And the big question is, will those new levees built since Katrina`s destruction hold?

What are your concerns about this powerful storm? Call me at: 1-877- JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

Let`s go straight out now to HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, who`s live in New Orleans. The city is expected to take the biggest hit by Isaac. What is it like there right now?

BOB VAN DILLEN, HLN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Jim, it`s a good question. Just about 30 seconds ago I felt the strongest gust that I`ve felt since I`ve been here. I got here last night. I`ve been standing here without a problem. But that last gust of wind through made me shuffle my feet a bit. So it`s starting to pick up a little in intensity.

But when I got here last night it was clear skies. It was midnight. There was a little bit of a breeze. And then I woke up for the live shots early this morning about 5 a.m. The wind was picking up, but still no clouds. Now you have the clouds in and you have no sunshine in between, just a solid deck of cloud cover. You see the winds behind me start to pick up just a little bit. Again, some of these winds gusting coming in a little stronger.

We had one wind gust off of Lake Pontchartrain off one of the elevated platforms of over 100 miles per hour. Now right now it`s an 80-mile-per- hour sustained-wind storm. I expect to see sustained winds of hurricane force. And that would be over 74 miles per hour for New Orleans within the next four to five hours.

We`re watching the winds steadily pick up. You probably hear it behind me. We`re going to see these winds probably top out around 80, 85 sustained. But you get above the highest levels in the buildings above 30th floors, we`re talking about maybe winds as high as 100 to 105 to maybe even 110 at times, because we`re going to be on the bad side of this storm, Jim.

MORET: Bob, when you look at the weather chart, the satellite imagery, you see what looks like bands. And that I suppose can give people a false sense of security because the wind can pick up and then die down. And it looks like it`s kind of -- it`s bad behind you, but not horrible behind you. But don`t -- you don`t want people to be lulled into a sense of safety, right?

VAN DILLEN: Yes. You`re exactly right. That`s the nature of these things. They`re not a solid deck of rain coming in by any stretch. You have one spiraling rain band coming in. That`s when you pick up the strongest winds. That`s when the visibility goes down. That`s when the heaviest rain comes in.

But then like you said, it can calm down. Like right now I think we`re starting to see one of those spiraling bands coming in, because the wind is picking up and the rain is picking up, as well. But you`re right.

And also since we are on the bad side of the storm, we`re on the eastern quadrant. We`re probably going to see tornadoes. We have isolated tornado risk. There`s a tornado watch for New Orleans all the way out towards the panhandle of Florida, because once those rain bands come ashore, they lose speed at the surface but they keep on going in the upper levels. That creates wind shear. That`s why the chance of tornadoes also.

Also we`re on the bad side, so we`re going to get strongest winds, the biggest storm surge and the most amount of rain. We`re talking 10 to even 15 inches of rain for New Orleans alone -- Jim.

MORET: That`s Bob Van Dillen, HLN meteorologist Jackson Square, New Orleans. Thank you, bob.

Let`s go out to Brian Todd, CNN correspondent also in New Orleans. Brian, what does it look like from your vantage point?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we`re getting a very intense rain band right here along the Mississippi River. This is what officials really from the lakes over here and maybe coming over the levies. It`s really the pure rainfall. We`re getting a very heavy dose of it right now.

You heard about the forecast for the rainfall here. And really, it could get up to 12 inches total by the time this is done. And what the governor is saying is they`re going to be monitoring the new pumping stations all around the New Orleans area very, very closely. The pumping stations, they think, will work to capacity. A lot of them are new, installed since Hurricane Katrina. But even when they`re working to capacity, the rainfall may exceed their capacity. And so you could have isolated areas of flooding, not just in New Orleans but elsewhere.

We`re going to show you some of the storm surge here on the Mississippi River. Our photojournalist, John MacAfee, if he can zero in on the lake or the river.

Also very significant here, Jim, this whole section of the river from the mouth of the Mississippi south, which is the direction I`m pointing, all the way up to Baton Rouge, this is closed down to barge and tanker traffic and for at least a couple of days. So that`s very significant. There`s a lot of trade that passes through here up the Mississippi River, as you know.

Tankers carrying goods, oil, everything all the way up the Mississippi River. It is shut down, along with the airport service. The flights have been canceled, at least 1,400. So this area bracing for more. And we`re going to get it in the coming hours, Jim.

MORET: And, Brian, you can`t see this. You`re on a split screen right now. I want to fill our viewers in. You`re looking at footage from WWL, our affiliate at Lake Pontchartrain. You`re looking at the storm at its worst so far hitting that area.

Brian, I want to go back to you very quickly, because the picture behind you is very different from the picture that viewers are seeing right now from Lake Pontchartrain. Have you seen a storm of great intensity so far where you are? Is it a lull right now? Or are you just bracing for the worst?

TODD: Jim, it`s been inconsistent. Right now it`s a bit of a lull. The wind is not too strong here, but the rain comes and goes. It comes in very strong bands and then it will dissipate. That`s the nature of these things, I guess.

You talk about Lake Pontchartrain. We actually went up there. It`s only about maybe eight to ten miles from where I`m standing. We went up there earlier and saw firsthand what you just showed in the video.

It`s a big difference there from here, because the storm surge is just bringing those waves way up over the lake. That`s what they were concerned about. That`s why they had to fortify those levees and flood gates. It`s very intense there. Not so intense here. I guess just because of the topography.

But we`re waiting for more rain for sure. I think in these inland areas, these areas protected by the levees, it`s really going to be the issue of rain, whereas at Lake Pontchartrain it`s the storm surge, and it`s already very intense there as you saw.

MORET: Thank you. That`s Brian Todd, CNN correspondent, from New Orleans.

On the phone now, Paul Flaherty, who is the flight director for NOAA. And Paul, I understand that you`re going to be flying through the hurricane. Where are you now?

OK. We`ve lost contact with Paul. But Paul Flaherty is the flight director from NOAA. We`re going to be trying to reestablish communication with him momentarily.

If you`re in the path of Hurricane Isaac, here`s what you can do to prepare. If you plan to stay and weather the storm, bring in any outside items, fill a bathtub with water, get a full tank of gas.

If you plan to evacuate, locate the nearest shelter. If you have pets, please make sure that it`s a pet-friendly shelter. Put important documents in a waterproof container. Turn off gas, water, electricity, if possible.

And here are some supplies that you should have on hand. A three-day supply of food and water with one gallon of water per person per day. A can opener, a flashlight, or two, a battery-powered radio.

We now have Paul -- Paul Flaherty on the phone, flight director from NOAA. Paul, where are you? Paul, can you hear me?

OK. I apologize once again. Clearly, the situation is very fluid. We`re going to take a break and be back with more of our coverage right after this. Stay with us.


MORET: You`re looking at live footage now coming from our affiliate WWL, Lake Pontchartrain just in New Orleans. And you can see clearly the rising surf behind that reporter who`s trying to issue a live report right now. We`re can see that that boat -- we`re losing that picture.

You can see that the water is -- the water is rising. It`s very heavy now. The rain is pounding down. And while we`re looking at this picture, I`m reminding you at home that Hurricane Isaac is gusting now. It`s sustained winds of up to 80 miles an hour, gusts of up to 100.

And we`re going to bring in Tom Sater, our meteorologist in Atlanta, who`s been following this storm along with all of us here at HLN and CNN.

Tom, what can people in that area -- we see it looks like it`s getting worse right now.


MORET: What can people expect in the hours to come?

SATER: Well, let me back up just a little bit for you, because 24 hours ago, when you look at an infrared satellite picture, the brighter colors are the taller cloud tops, the higher cloud tops, all of the convective activity yesterday was down in the southern flank. And we expected it to wrap up and around. So there was some good news that they didn`t have heavy rainfall through the overnight period and through the day today.

But with that said, notice the color of purple. The worst place that you want, the highest concentration of thunderstorm development, is in that northeastern quadrant just before landfall. So the pictures you`re seeing there of the storm surge hour by hour as the counterclockwise rotation continues, it throws the wall of water a little bit further inland, and it gets a little bit deeper.

But with this concentration here in the purple, that`s the big concern. That`s your heaviest amount of rainfall. That is your storm surge potential and the energy behind it. I believe our only -- best guesstimate here is about 13 miles from making landfall on the little finger there, Plaquemines Parish, in Louisiana. It`s probably near 90 miles from New Orleans.

But this is the worst-case scenario, because yesterday all the activity to the south, that`s what happens when you go from a tropical storm to hurricane status. The engine now is purring. It was able to continue to circulate all of that banding.

So as we watch this make landfall, the big concern with hurricane winds, it`s a concentrated area and we`re going to find gusts, sure, near 100. It`s going to down power lines. If you`re going to lose power, you`re going to be out for a while. Crews are not going to get into a dangerous situation where winds are blowing like this. Speaking of a dangerous situation, I mean, that`s ridiculous. Coast Guard...

MORET: Tom, I just want our viewers to know while you`re talking we`re still looking at Lake Pontchartrain footage coming in from our affiliate there. And also, Tom, isn`t one of the big problems with this storm the fact that it`s slow moving? So the impact is going to be felt possibly for hours?

SATER: Because it has slowed in speed -- in fact, to give you an idea, 24 hours ago, the forward progression was twice as fast. So -- but because yes, you`re right, it`s only at 8 miles per hour. And when these systems make landfall, sometimes they put on the brakes. You know, they lose that fuel or that warm water and they bog down a bit.

I mean, we were talking about this earlier in the day. If you`re an avid runner and you can run a nine-minute mile, let`s say you`re an ultra marathoner. You could actually start in southeast Louisiana and run to the northern part of the state and keep pace with this for the next several days.

But notice the tornado watch that`s in effect. I mean, this is going to be one of the problems. And then we`re going to get into the real damaging winds with the storm surge and probably just about two hours. You can see where the bulk of it is. This is the tighter eye band. And that`s where we find the concentration, as you see there in the colors of yellow and orange, where we`re really going to find it come down. And that`s when the storm surge really starts to pick up.

MORET: That`s Tom Sater, our meteorologist from Atlanta.

Let`s go to Shane Devlin, an Army hurricane hunter. A lot of people trying to avoid this hurricane. Shane is trying to hunt to find it, to follow it.

Shane, you`re on the phone right now. Where are you?

SHANE DEVLIN, ARMY HURRICANE HUNTER (via phone): I am in Houston, Texas, right now. We are normally located at Biloxi, Mississippi at Keesler Air Force Base. I fly with the U.S. Air Force Reserves 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.

MORET: What exactly are you trying to do as a hurricane hunter?

DEVLIN: Well, what we`re trying to do is basically have an aircraft inside the storm, especially when it gets close every three hours. We`re trying to fix that center location and basically find the lowest center of pressure.

And what we collect -- the data that we collect in the aircraft and with the drop zones that we release, gets fed to the National Hurricane Center. It helps improve their model forecast and helps them predict the path along with the intensity of the storm.

MORET: So you`re not doing this, obviously, for -- for any reason other than you`re really trying to help forecasters in the future and trying to gather more information and figure out how these storms move and why they move in the way that they go?

DEVLIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. What we do is we fly inside the storm when it`s a developed hurricane at 10,000 feet. The data we collect gets fed into the model runs, and it helps improve the accuracy of the models by as much as 30 percent. So it helps tighten that cone of where the storm is actually going to make landfall. And it tightens that, minimizing some of the need for unwanted or unnecessary evacuation of coastline.

MORET: OK. That`s Shane Devlin doing the dangerous but important work as a hurricane hunter. We`ll be back with more of our coverage on Hurricane Isaac on JVM right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not let this storm lull you into complacency. That would be a terrible mistake. We have dodged a bullet in the sense that this is not a Category 3 storm, but a Category 1, at this strength from 85- to 100-mile-an-hour winds with 125-miles-an-hour gusts is plenty big enough to put a big hurt.


MORET: That`s in New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, telling people not to be lulled into a false sense of security. Talks about dodging a bullet.

Tommy Kidd, as a resident, as we look at pictures from our affiliate, WWL, Lake Pontchartrain, you can see the storm building in intensity right now.

But Tommy Kidd had a home heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. He`s in a mandatory evacuation center right now. He`s on the phone.

Tommy, when you hear the mayor talk about dodging a bullet, you know what that`s like. You were there seven years ago. And you must be on pins and needles right now.

TOMMY KIDD, RESIDENT (via phone): Well, after seven years ago, Katrina, there`s not too much that frightens us here, because that was probably one of the biggest storms that will ever hit the continental United States in most people`s lifetime.

But we always respect storms. Any tropical storm that can turn into a hurricane is something not only to respect but to be very careful about and fear.

MORET: And, Tommy, I know a lot of people around the country would look at a resident and say, "Why would you stay there?" And this is your home, and you have stayed there. And you -- what you said is very important. You respect the storm. And you prepare for the storm. And a lot of things have been done in and around this area to better prepare the entire area for the eventuality of another storm.

But why did you stay there?

KIDD: Well, being in our own business, it`s always good to be close by, because you don`t know how long it will be if you leave the community that you could get back in. Many things happen.

For example, in Katrina we had roads that were inundated. We had trees blown down. You couldn`t even get through some of the security to get back to your home. So having a business, you definitely want to be able to at least stay close to it when you can -- when you can get back in and take care of things as quickly as possible.

MORET: And what did you do, Tommy, to secure your home before you left?

KIDD: Well, we live in a raised house because we are in a flood-prone area. And everything that was on the slab or the ground floor of the house had to be picked up, because we were anticipating at least a six- to seven- foot slab of flood.

And as it turns out, we were pretty close to where it is. So we had to raise things up and put them upstairs or put them in an area where they wouldn`t get damaged by the water.

MORET: That`s Tommy Kidd. His home was heavily damaged in Katrina. And you hear that he has taken all the precautions necessary. He is now in the mandatory evacuation center. We wish him and his family, obviously, the best. Thank you for joining us.

We`ll be back with more coverage of Hurricane Isaac right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attention all citizens on Grand Isle. We have a mandatory evacuation as of 1 p.m.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tropical Storm Isaac is history. It`s Hurricane Isaac now.

LAVANDERA: This storm and where we are right now, really, we expect to be at the very center of Hurricane Isaac as it gets closer to making landfall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain, you`re under hurricane warning. Twenty-three parishes, Louisiana. In fact, all of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, the shoreline, of course the Mississippi.

TODD: We just got another rain band from a tropical -- well, now Hurricane Isaac. I know it`s just increased in strength. It`s kind of sweeping in over the Mississippi River here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not let this storm lull you into complacency. That would be a terrible mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now we are on a wing and a prayer. You know? A lot of prayers.


MORET: Welcome back to JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL. I`m Jim Moret from "Inside Edition", filling in tonight for Jane.

You`re looking at a live picture now from New Orleans. We are tracking Hurricane Isaac, which is currently a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds about 80 miles-an-hour gusting at 100 miles-an-hour. We`re tracking this storm, which is due to hit in full intensity landfall within a couple of hours.

Bob van Dillen, HLN`s meteorologist, is in Jackson Square, New Orleans. He`s been following this along with our team of reporters from HLN and CNN. Bob, what is the latest from your vantage point?

BOB VAN DILLEN, HLN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I`m watching the winds right now pick up in intensity. We got a little bit of damage now starting to show up on these nice old trees. These live oaks right here, you can see a couple of trees are starting to snap off some of the limbs.

And then look above the trees. Look at the winds? Look at the clouds. I mean they are zipping by right now. We have 80 miles-per-hour sustained winds; storm headed right towards with gusting near 100 miles- per-hour.

We are going to be on the bad (AUDIO GAP) of this category 1 storm. We`re talking about winds increasing and probably getting up to about 55 to 75 mile-per-hour sustained wind storm and probably get those winds here within the next three to four hours.

But if you look over down the street a little ways -- I want to show you this -- now, we had a wind gust on Lake Pontchartrain about an hour and a half ago of 55 miles-per-hour at the surface. We got above that. There`s a platform that`s 208 feet above the lake that had a wind gust of 106 miles-per-hour.

So that leads me to believe if you are on top of one of those high- rise buildings in downtown New Orleans, you`re going to see much more wind than you would if you`re in one of the bottom floors. And it`s simply because the friction at the ground stops that wind at the ground level a little bit more.

But there`s no friction when you get above about 20 or 30 stories. That allows that wind to just come full force. So if you live in any of those high-rises, you`re in a hotel right now, get down to the bottom floor, I`m saying, within the next three to four hours and probably ride it out down there -- Jim.

MORET: And Bob, what`s so striking is we`re looking at pictures not only from you but from Lake Pontchartrain coming from our affiliate WWL, and we`re seeing that right now. What`s fascinating is that within just a few miles you see such dramatically different pictures.

So just saying the storm is going to hit New Orleans, it`s going to hit some parts of the city first clearly. And not all parts the same intensity, right?

VAN DILLEN: You`re exactly right. We were talking about the rainbands before, but the hurricane force winds, they only go out so far. The tropical storm force winds extend well over 150 miles away. So you`re going to get a taste of this as far as to the east as areas like say Pensacola.

That` hurricane warning goes all the way out to the Alabama- Mississippi border all the way to Morgan City but it includes New Orleans and it includes Biloxi as well. So we`re going to get a good taste and it`s just starting right now. The winds have really increased over the last hour, I can tell you that. And we`re looking at downtown New Orleans right now Jackson Square.

MORET: That`s HLN meteorologist Bob van Dillen.

Let`s go now to Ed Lavandera, CNN correspondent who`s at Grand Isle, Louisiana. Ed, can you hear me?

LAVANDERA: Hey, Jim, I can hear you. Good to see you.

Here in Grand Isle we anticipate to see the very center of this storm pass over us in the hours ahead. And we have been throughout several of these really intense bands of the storm that have blown through here in Grand Isle. I`m telling you what, when it really picks up, we`ve seen those wind gusts really start to shake things up here on Grand Isle.

But what is fascinating is that here in a matter of moments as this next band -- the storm continues to blow through, all those houses that you see there -- this is on the north side of the island -- will essentially disappear. The visibility here will drop so low that you won`t even be able to see those homes because of the rain that is swirling through here.

Grand Isle is about seven miles long and about half a mile wide, about 1,500 people live here, Jim. Almost everyone has evacuated. We`re down to about 30 people now.

But what they anticipated, what has been really strange, is that throughout most of this storm the wind has been coming out of the north, but they`re waiting for this to turn from the south at some point here as the hurricane moves closer. And obviously that will bring the issue of storm surge and just how much water will be blown onto this island.

The forecast had suggested that perhaps that could get anywhere between seven to ten feet depending on the strength of the storm as it came on shore. So they`ll continue to monitor that.

Four years ago during Hurricane Gustav they saw about three feet of water here and all of this area that you see below me -- luckily we`re on a ridge that cuts right through the middle of the island that keeps us on the highest ground possible, so that is why we picked this place to ride out this storm in and so far so good here.

We know there are some reports of downed power lines throughout the island. Many of the roads are starting to become impassable as water washes over these roads. Vast majority of the area around here, Jim, is very low lying area so that is what we`re dealing with. And that`s why they urged people yesterday to evacuate.

Once you`re down here, at this point as this storm is coming on shore, you don`t have time to -- or the ability to really move around. You`re pretty much locked into whatever place you choose to ride this storm out in. You can really get a sense now, Jim, of these wind gusts as they really burst through here in Grand Isle. And this will continue to intensify here in the coming hours -- Jim.

MORET: Ed, pardon me for asking a question because I see it`s growing in intensity, but one thing you said really strikes me. That is there are 1,500 residents and you said about 30 people have chosen to stay. Have you gotten a sense of why in the world they would do so? Because it looks like -- you talk about up to ten feet of water coming in that area. They could see a great deal of damage, if not devastation.

LAVANDERA: I should clarify that. Of those 30 people that are here, the majority of those people are emergency management officials, the mayor, various people on the levee board and all those types of local officials that are making passes around this area.

Many of the people who call this place home, there are very few, the man who lives in that home just over my -- whoa, over my left shoulder here, we know he`s home. There`s another gentleman over here that has chosen to ride out.

We`re here at the home of a man by the name of Dean Blanchard who is the shrimp king here in Grand Isle. He has a huge shrimp empire. His dock is just over here on the north side of the island. He got out there a little while ago and said that his dock is completely under water and has extensive damage there.

Really it`s the north side of the island so far that has really taken the brunt of the punishment from this storm. But at some point the winds here will begin to shift perhaps. And that could change things up here dramatically on the island.

MORET: Thank you. That`s Ed Lavandera, CNN reporter talking to us from the very gusty area obviously at Grand Isle.

And Ed mentioned Dean Blanchard. We`re going to talk now to Dean Blanchard. He`s known in that area as the king of shrimp. He lives on Grand Isle, Louisiana as Ed Lavandera just pointed out. He`s still in his home. This is an area that`s expected to take a direct hit.

Dean, how is it there? We saw Ed -- looks like the winds are gusting and growing in intensity. Why have you chosen to stay? Dean, can you hear me?


MORET: Hi, Dean. It`s Jim Moret in Los Angeles. Give our viewers a sense why you`ve chose to stay and what you expect to see in the hours ahead because you`ve got to be bracing for the worst?

Dean can you hear -- I think we lost him, which is understandable given the intensity of that storm we saw. We saw that it is growing in intensity. We`re going to keep monitoring the situation, try to reconnect with Dean.

We`re going to take a break and be back with more of our coverage right after this.


MORET: I`m Jim Moret from "Inside Edition" filling in for Jane Velez- Mitchell. We are continuing our coverage of Hurricane Isaac, winds at 80 miles an hour, gusts at 110. On the left side you`re looking at Lake Pontchartrain where the storm is hitting now. You can see the surge rising.

We`re going to be back with more coverage right after this. Stay with us.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Looks like an ocean scene behind me, but this is actually Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. Look at the tides coming in. The earliest bands of Isaac really starting to take hold here sweeping this tide up over the shoreline here. It looks a lot like an ocean scene with the white caps.

This is the area that officials are going to be paying very, very close attention to. They`re confident that the seawalls, levees, flood gates are going to hold these tides and not spill over into New Orleans. As you can see they`re very strong.


MORET: That was Brian Todd reporting from the storm as we continue our coverage here of Hurricane Isaac. You`re looking at footage from WWL Lake Pontchartrain.

This is the scene just minutes ago as you can see those young men getting slammed by the storm surge from Isaac. Looks like they finally changed their minds and decided to get to higher ground, which is of course a good idea.

Another concern for residents: Isaac`s effect on income, people like shrimpers. Right now we`re going to talk to Dean Blanchard who known as the king of shrimp. We tried to reach him earlier, lost contact. Dean, can you hear me now?


MORET: Hi, how are you? You live on Grand Isle, Louisiana. That`s a barrier island. It`s expected to take a direct hit by Isaac when it makes land. Dean, how is it there right now?

BLANCHARD: Well, right now we`ve taken a beating from the back end of the island on the northern side. We have several islands over the last few years that disappeared and for some reason we can`t get the Corps of Engineers to fix it back right. I mean there`s nothing we can do.

They fix it back, but they don`t fix it back like it was 20 years ago. There`s more damage than the hurricane.

MORET: Are you feeling more vulnerable now than you were seven years ago when Katrina hit?

BLANCHARD: Oh, definitely, definitely. These islands are disappearing. And we fail to fix them it`s going to continue to get worse, you know. They keep building levees to the north of us instead of building it to the south of us. I mean I just don`t understand their reasoning behind that.

MORET: Well, Mr. Blanchard, I know that this is your home and you also have a business there. Why would you decide to stay? I know that of the 1,500 residents near you, all but about 30 have left. And many of them are emergency personnel. Why did you stay?

BLANCHARD: Well, it`s so hard to get back, you know. When you got a business, the uncertainty of worrying what`s really happening to your property, it drives you nuts. And I`ve stayed for every storm but Katrina. And I just rather stay here and at least see for myself than be somewhere wondering. And you know, you got police along the line don`t want you to come back. It`s a hassle to come back.

MORET: That`s Dean Blanchard, he operates a shrimp business along the Louisiana bayou. He is as you hear waiting this storm out and bracing for the worst.

Rob Marciano, CNN meteorologist in New Orleans; what can Dean Blanchard expect to see in the coming hours? He`s talking about taking a beating now. But I think he`s in for much worse treatment soon, right?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. There`s no doubt about that. Just before -- I took one last glance at my computer about half an hour ago before we started our coverage. And one of the buoys south and east of where he is right at the mouth of the Mississippi, a place called Pilot Down (ph) there`s a buoy there, pressures were dropping, winds had gusted to over 65, 70 miles an hour. And then the winds went calm.

So that`s where the eye is. It`s just about to make its way on shore into more significant landfall. And that would include places like Grand Isle certainly will take a direct hit with this. And then New Orleans, where we stand on the river banks of the Mississippi. They`re going to be on the right side of this thing and that means more wind and rain than you would typically see.

And here comes another squall. Our winds are northeasterly now. Because of that we know where the center of the storm is. But it`s doing another thing. We talk about storm surge quite a bit. Well, the Mississippi typically flows this way. If you look out there on the white caps, the white caps are actually going the wrong direction. So at least the top layer of this current or this river is flowing upstream.

And you know we have this drought, so the flow is very low as a river level. So we`re going to see more significant storm surge up the Mississippi than we typically would. Jim, they`ve shut down all the flood gates, all the levees and flood gates and channel closers, canal closers that they`ve built over the past seven years. They have now been shut.

They`re just going to see if that system that they`ve spent billions of dollars on holds through this storm -- Jim.

MORET: That`s Rob Marciano, CNN meteorologist. Thanks so much, Rob.

We`re going to be back with more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Isaac right after this.


Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Isaac. You talk about the scope of this storm, you`re looking at shots now from WEAR, Pensacola, Florida. We`ve been showing you shots of New Orleans throughout the broadcast. This is a massive storm, it`s growing in intensity.

We`re going to continue coverage right after this.


MORET: You`re looking at Jackson Square, New Orleans for our continuing coverage of Hurricane Isaac, expected to hit landfall in full intensity in a couple of hours.

Jim Dickey is an AccuWeather meteorologist joining us from State College, Pennsylvania. Jim from where you sit, you`re tracking the storm, and you see the scope of it and it`s just massive. And I know that we`ve been hearing it`s not a category 3 like Katrina, but we`re also being told don`t let that lull you into a false sense of security. What can people expect over the next coming hours?

JIM DICKEY, ACCUWEATHER METEOROLOGIST: Well, in the next coming hours we`re looking at this storm likely sort of skirting the coast here and it`s showing signs of intensifying. That`s not good news. What is good news is that so close to the coast, there`s not much time left for it to intensify. If we were still a day out from landfall, that would be trouble. We might be looking at a major hurricane.

Not going to be the case. Of course, the impact is going forward here through the next 8 to 12 hours. Soaking rainfall, flooding, the storm surge continues and these red boxes here, those are tornado watches. Those go until 9:00 p.m. local time.

So this is the latest advisory here. We`re going to have a new advisory within minutes. I won`t be surprised if those winds are coming up. We`re seeing the thunderstorm activity really bubbling around the center of circulation. Winds 80 miles per hour; gusts to 100 miles per hour -- had numerous reports of gusts on those oil rigs out there in the 100-mile-per-hour range.

And as we look in a bit closer here on the radar imagery you can see the center coming very close to the coast here. And that will again be moving onshore, you`ll see these heavy rainbands. Flooding is going to be substantial going forward as this storm swings its way inland right on through the week. We`re talking 24 hours here of tropical storm force winds and heavy rain.

MORET: Jim Dickey, AccuWeather meteorologist, thank you for joining us. And we`ll be back with you right after this. Stay with us.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: I am here in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, the very area devastated during Katrina. These are steps that used to belong to a home, the home isn`t there anymore. This is the wall that has been fixed so to speak to protect this entire neighborhood. The question is, is it strong enough?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m concerned about the dam. I`m concerned about the levee system.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at the water level. It is almost up to the top and we haven`t even had rain here.

ROBYN WALENSKY, ANCHOR/REPORTER, THE BLAZE: Seven years out, we have not had a category 3, 4 or 5, hurricane here, so the wall is untested. The Army Corps of Engineers says it will withstand a cat 3, but what if we have a cat 4 or a cat 5?


MORET: That`s Jane who was in New Orleans earlier this summer and took a tour of the neighborhood hit hardest by Katrina. We`re going to see if they can hold up. It`s expecting a Category 1, obviously, to strike any minute.

Mike Watkins, hurricane tracker, he`s joining us from Gulfport, Mississippi. How are you holding up right now?

MIKE WATKINS, HURRICANE TRACKER: Doing pretty well, Jim, thank you.

MORET: You`re bracing -- have you seen a great deal of activity? You`re bracing for the worst?

WATKINS: We are. We`re actually in a little bit of a lull right now, but we`re monitoring radar very closely, and we see that there`s a fairly strong band heading just to our south. It`s going to move up, we think, in our area soon. And we`re expecting the rain to pick up a little bit later on.

We had some fairly strong bands that came through earlier today and we`re in a little bit of a quiet period but we expect it to pick up and get busy again here very soon.

MORET: We wish you the best of luck, Mike Watkins.

I`m Jim Moret from "Inside Edition", filling in for Jane. There`s much more coming up on our tracking of Hurricane Isaac.

Nancy Grace coming up next. Stay tuned.