President Barack Obama said he’s ordered the federal government to do “everything possible” to help those in the path of Tropical Storm Isaac and called on Gulf Coast residents not to “tempt fate.”
“We’re dealing with a big storm,” Obama said in remarks from the White House. “Now’s not the time to tempt fate,” he said. “You need to take this seriously.”
The president earlier declared an emergency for Louisiana, authorizing agencies to coordinate relief efforts.
He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been on the ground for more than a week getting response teams and supplies ready. People in the storm’s path should follow the advice of local officials including any instructions to evacuate.
The storm was forecast to become a hurricane today, a day before the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which took 1,800 lives after levees protecting New Orleans failed.
Obama spoke as the Republican National Convention was under way in Tampa, Florida, to formally nominate Mitt Romney to challenge Obama in the November presidential election.
Isaac has disrupted the convention, with yesterday’s programming scrapped and television coverage of the storm taking away coverage time.
Isaac’s winds neared hurricane strength today as it shut 78 percent of oil production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and sent gasoline futures to a four-month high.
The storm’s center was 105 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River with top winds of 70 miles per hour, 5 mph less than hurricane strength, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 8:05 a.m. New York time.
The storm halted 48 percent of natural-gas production in the Gulf and forced evacuations from 346 production platforms and 41 rigs, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said yesterday. Four refineries in Louisiana were shut, idling combined capacity of 832,700 barrels a day, or 4.8 percent of the U.S. total, and at least four are running at reduced rates.