Hurricane Isaac was lashing the northern Gulf Coast with its outer bands of winds and rain Tuesday afternoon.
The center of the still-strengthening storm was getting closer to the coast, about 30 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River. The center or the eye is expected to make it ashore in southeastern Louisiana, possibly the New Orleans area, sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday. Winds Tuesday evening had whipped up to 80 mph.
The center will make it ashore during the seventh anniversary Hurricane Katrina that devastated the area. Isaac would be the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since Ike in 2008.
WHERE AND HOW STRONG?
As of Tuesday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted Isaac would maintain at least Category 1 strength. That would make its winds somewhere between 75 mph and 95 mph.
Southeastern Louisiana is in its crosshairs. But Isaac's reach is large and it will dump heavy rain as far east as Florida.
WHAT DOES MAKE LANDFALL MEAN?
A hurricane is considered to have made landfall when the center or eye intersects with a coastline.
The strongest winds are often not in the center of a hurricane. They are usually on the storms outer bands that come ashore before and after the eye. Sometimes an uneasy calm actually is felt when the eye passes over, but it is often followed by more strong winds and rain.
While people across the coast were boarding up their homes to prepare for damaging winds, the even bigger fear is potential flooding. Isaac could push storm surge as high as 12 feet into parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and 1 to 3 feet high as far away as Florida's west coast.
Around New Orleans, residents hunkered down behind levees fortified after Katrina.
Isaac already left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, most of it blamed on flooding that killed 24 people.
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
Isaac veered well west of the Republican National Convention site in Tampa, but it was soggy over the weekend in the bayside city. The GOP pushed back the start of speeches a day to Tuesday and protesters' ranks have been small, in part because of the soaking brought on by Isaac and in part because of the huge police presence in the city.
The storm has also altered some Republican governors' plans to attend. Florida Gov. Rick Scott canceled a speaking engagement, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley canceled their trips to Tampa.
Officials in Louisiana's St. Charles Parish near New Orleans and Terrebonne Parish that includes Houma closer to the Gulf have told about 73,000 residents total to leave ahead of the storm. Some coastal residents in Alabama have also been told to evacuate.
However, officials haven't ordered the kind of evacuations that have in the past clogged interstates, with both sides of the highway heading one direction. In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said evacuations would not be ordered and told residents to prepare carefully and ride it out.