Hurricane Isaac 2012: Path Stalks Gulf Coast as State of Emergency Announcements Spark Evacuations

Tropical Storm Isaac has increased in strength as it wades up the Gulf Coast early Monday morning and is set to hit hurricane power in the coming day or so, according to latest predictions. On its current path it will hit west of New Orleans just a day out from the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

(Photo: NOAA)Tropical Storm Isaac predicted path map on August 25, 2012.

Isaac is set to provide high winds and extensive rainfall at the Republican National Convention on Monday having already smashed the Florida Keys and Miami area Sunday night and early morning Monday.

In the coming 24 hours Isaac is predicted to become a hurricane of category 2 strength as it gains further power from the warm Gulf of Mexico. On its current path it will hit landfall on late Tuesday and slam the area to the west of New Orleans and the edge of the Florida panhandle.

Many have already highlighted the fact that Hurricane Isaac is tracking a similar line as the devastating Hurricane Katrina, and if it stays on its current path and speed it will hit landfall just one day out from the seventh anniversary of Katrina.

Hurricane Isaac is predicted to have winds of 105 mph, which is a powerful category 2. Category 2 hurricanes are defined as having sustained wind speeds of between 96 and 110 mph, along with a strong storm surge.

(Photo: Reuters/NOAA/Handout)Tropical Storm Isaac is seen in this NOAA satellite image taken at 9:15 EST (14:15 GMT) August 25, 2012. Tropical Storm Isaac emerged over warm Caribbean waters on Saturday slightly weaker but ready to regroup after dumping torrential rains on Haiti, where thousands of people remain homeless more than two years after a devastating earthquake.

Already in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has announced a state of emergency, and nearly 55,000 residents in the St. Charles Parish near New Orleans have been told to evacuate.

The same goes in Alabama and Mississippi, where both Gov. Robert Bentley and Gov. Phil Bryant respectively have called states of emergency as Isaac stalks their regions.

Oil companies have also evacuated workers and cut production in their Gulf offshore oil rigs, as they prepare to be hit by the hurricane.

The center of the storm has moved significantly west of Tampa, however, due to Isaac's huge size strong winds and heavy rains have been seen 200 miles either side of the center of the storm.

As of 5 a.m. ET Monday, the storm was centered about 180 miles southwest of Fort Meyers, Fla., and 405 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

At present Isaac has sustained winds of 65 mph and is moving west-northwest at about 15 mph, according to reports. However, in the coming 24 hours it is likely to increase sustained wind speeds significantly, reaching hurricane strength and raising to a category 2. Some have even suggested a category 3 hurricane could result if Isaac remains in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters longer than expected.