As the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, another potentially destructive storm bears down on the Gulf. A hurricane warning has been issued for the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, including New Orleans. Meteorologists expect tropical storm Isaac to develop into a hurricane today or tomorrow, and the Christian Science Monitor reports that Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency and said "15 low-lying parishes outside New Orleans' newly built, $14.5 billion flood defense system would likely be under mandatory evacuation orders by Monday."
"There's really nothing that's going to stop this storm from forming and from strengthening," Jindal told reporters yesterday. The National Weather Service predicts Isaac will be a Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall Tuesday, with sustained winds of 105 mph. Isaac is currently propelling tropical-force winds across a 400 mile radius, with wind gusts of 60 mph blasting through Key West and Palm Beach. "It certainly is a large storm," observes NHC meteorologist David Zelinsky.
Isaac blew through the Caribbean over the weekend, grazing Cuba but doing more damage to Haiti, where CSM reports that "350,000 survivors of the 2010 earthquake [are] still living in flimsy resettlement camps as water gushed into tents and corrugated plastic shacks ripped apart by the wind." Eight people were reported killed, including three children.
But let's focus on what this means for the Republican Convention! Isaac is sparing Tampa the brunt of its wrath, but it's still bad timing. Al Hoffman, a Republican from West Palm Beach and former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, tells the NY Daily News, "You don’t want to be having hoopla and dancing when you have the nation focused on tragedy and suffering." Because if it wasn't for that high-profile Isaac, there wouldn't be any tragedy or suffering in America to harsh the GOP party vibe. Isaac already threatens to upstage Mitt Romney's coronation, with CNN sending Soledad O'Brien and Anderson Cooper to New Orleans.
And then there's the oil, the precious oil. "It's going right in the heart of refinery row," one analyst tells CSM, referring to the low-lying fuel refineries along the Gulf Coast, which account for 40 percent of America's refining capacity. Meteorologists expect Isaac to result in "short-term shutdowns of 85 percent of the U.S. offshore oil production capacity and 68 percent of the natural gas output," which could send gas prices spiking as Americans fuel up for Labor Day weekend. Ironically, some scientists believe that global warming brought on by greenhouse gas emissions will cause intense storms like Isaac to barrel though places like "refinery row" with greater force and frequency in the years to come.