FEMA on Isaac evacuations: ‘The time to go is now’

As the storm targets a wide swath of the Gulf Coast, governors declare emergencies.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said on Monday that if residents impacted by the advance of Tropical Storm Isaac are instructed to leave their homes: “The time to go is now.”

As Isaac targets a roughly 300-mile swath of the Gulf Coast, and Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi governors declared states of emergency, Fugate said residents should not delay until the next forecast to see if the storm turns into a hurricane. “Some of our most devastating flooding has occurred during a tropical storm that never reached hurricane strength,” Fugate said in a conference call. Some areas could receive up to 12 to 18 inches of rain, which could lead to rising water levels in rivers and flash flooding—potentially life-threatening hazards for people driving to their next location.

National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said his team is trying to gauge the potential high and low strength of the hurricane if Isaac takes that course. “We’re forecasting Category 1 as kind of the middle of those possibilities,” Knabb said on the call. But even if Isaac remains a tropical storm at landfall, he warned, its large size could generate storm surge and inland flooding—reaching up to six to 12 feet above ground level along the coast lines of Alabama, Mississippi, and southeast Louisiana. 

Monday is the day to prepare, Knabb added. “Wherever people are going to be during the storms they need to be there tonight."