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|UPDATED: Isaac eye approaches Twin Cities|
Tropical Storm Isaac will continue to dump rains on Ouachita Parish through at least Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As of 1 p.m. Thursday, the center of Isaac was roughly 25 miles southeast of Monroe and was tracking northwest at nine miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center anticipates Isaac will weaken quickly over the next 72 hours as it turns north and makes its way across Arkansas and Missouri.
The most recent conditions report still graded Isaac as a tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour and gusts significantly higher. Isaac also continues to produce significant rainfall and cautions that the region could receive up to 14 inches of rain during the storm.
Hurricane Isaac was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday afternoon as it pursued a northwestern track across Louisiana.
Isaac made landfall in Plaquemines Parish late Tuesday evening as a Category 1 hurricane, with winds in excess of 80 miles per hour. The storm delivered a tidal surge of up to 16 feet along its leading edge as it crossed onto land.
The tidal surge was high enough to top levees in Plaquemines Parish and triggered some flooding, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Meanwhile, Ouachita Parish continues to prepare for the possibility of torrential rains and high winds. The National Weather Service says rainfall of up to 12 inches can be expected.
Sandbags are being distributed throughout the parish at a number of sites in order to give residents some protection against flash floods.
Residents interested in obtaining sandbags can do so at the following locations:
-Harvey Benoit Community Center 1700 Oaklawn Drive
-Emily P. Robinson Community Center 3504 Jackson Street
-Saul Adler Community Center 3900 Westminster
-Powell Community Center 1401 Powell Street
-Marbles Community Center 2950 Renwick Street
-Johnson Community Center 2800 Burg Jones Lane
-2201 Ticheli Road, Monroe, La (across the street from Shady Grove Elementary)
-Osterland Recreation Center - 710 Holland Drive, Monroe, La
-340 Trade Street (also known as Edwards Road) off of New Natchitoches, West Monroe
Ahead of Isaac's arrival, President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in south Louisiana parishes expected to be impacted by the storm. That move came Monday afternoon and frees up some federal resources to aid in hurricane response efforts.
Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency over the weekend for all Louisiana parishes.
Ouachita Parish has been under a state of emergency since yesterday afternoon, when Ouachita Parish Police Jury President Shane Smiley signed a declaration of emergency.
The declaration is just one of several steps parish, state and local officials can take to prepare for an influx of evacuees from southern Louisiana.
Earlier Monday, Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said the first "drive-up" evacuees have begun to trickle into the Marble Recreation Center.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Mayo said at least two families have inquired about sheltering in Monroe ahead of the arrival of Isaac.
Earlier Tuesday, West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris said he does not anticipate a large influx of hurricane evacuees. West Monroe has a standing agreement with Plaquemines Parish to house evacuees from that area.
Norris said the city is maintaining close contact with officials in Plaquemines to monitor Isaac as it develops.
"As long as it gets no bigger than a Category 2 storm, they will evacuate in their own shelters," Norris said.
Isaac is the ninth named storm of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Currently, the storm is in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 200 miles off the coast of Florida.
Isaac is expected to make landfall Tuesday evening as a Category 2 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Isaac's approach to New Orleans comes almost seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina, which struck the New Orleans Metro area as a Category 3 storm and inflicted damages that officials at the time called catastrophic.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has begun evacuating low lying areas of the city to higher ground in anticipation of heavy rains.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency throughout Louisiana and is encouraging residents to remain vigilant and prepared.
"We are encouraging everyone to get prepared now to ensure that you have an evacuation plan in place, plenty of water, non-perishable food items, hygiene supplies, sufficient clothing, and any prescription medications you or your family may need in the event of the storm," Jindal said. "We are urging Louisianians to stay alert and monitor local weather conditions in their area. As with every storm, we always hope for the best and prepare for the worst."
Jindal said state and local officials are also making preparations to respond to the effects of Isaac.
"In addition to issuing a State of Emergency for the storm, we are in touch with parish leaders and we are recommending voluntary evacuations within the hurricane watch area," Jindal said. "Specifically, this is for people in low lying areas, areas outside of levee protection, and areas south of the Intracoastal Waterway."
One such low-lying area is St. John the Baptist Parish.
St. John the Baptist has a standing agreement to house evacuees in several facilities in Monroe.
Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said his administration is ready to receive any evacuees at a moment's notice, but so far, St. John officials haven't said they're coming.
Both Norris and Mayo said if and when evacuees arrive, the cities will be read.
"We can open shelters as fast as we need to if that happens," Norris said.