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Isaac stirs up memories of Hurricane Katrina

Staff writers
August 28, 2012 — With vivid memories of Hurricane Katrina's destruction still fresh on many people's minds, comparisons are being made between Isaac and Katrina. But according to Storm Hunter Mark Robinson, Isaac and Katrina couldn't be more different.

1,800 people died after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans
1,800 people died after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans

Wednesday marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the U.S.

Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 storm, but at one point reached Category 5 status with winds of more than 250 km/h. New Orleans was flooded with torrential rains after protective levees around the city failed.

Now, with Isaac projected to make landfall in southern Louisiana, people can't help but compare the two storms.

Storm Hunter and meteorologist Mark Robinson says the only thing that's similar however, is the date the storm is coming in on.

"These are two very, very different storms. Katrina was far stronger, far more organized at this point, while Isaac is coming in fairly weak and fairly disorganized."

Robinson says the closer comparison that he likes to make is Hurricane Gustav, which struck in August 2008.

"As Gustav came in, it really lost a lot of its strength, a lot of its punch and so I experienced probably what is much closer to Isaac than what was Katrina."

He adds that there are three main threats that hurricanes bring. Wind, storm surge and fresh water flooding. With Katrina, between 23 and 26 feet of water came on land.

"Each storm is very unique in its dangers and I think with Isaac, we're looking at tremendous water coming down...We're not seeing those really incredibly strong winds and we're not seeing a huge storm surge potential. It's definitely there and something to be concerned about, but what I'm really seeing is the significant water coming down."

Flooding rains forecast through Thursday
Flooding rains forecast through Thursday

Forecasters expect Isaac to be much weaker than Katrina, but it's still a dangerous storm that should not be taken lightly.

Since Katrina hit in 2005, federal officials say they've spent $10 billion to update levees around New Orleans.

While some residents are hunkering down and doing their best to be prepare for the storm, others are leaving to avoid any potential risk.

"I don't really trust the levees," said Robert Washington, who planned to evacuate along with his wife and five children. "I don't want to take that chance. I saw how it looked after Katrina back there."

Will Isaac affect Canada?

Isaac has the potential to affect Southern Ontario over the long weekend as the remnants of the storm make their way north towards us. This isn't as uncommon as people may think. The Great Lakes area has been hit by the remains of several infamous storms - Katrina, Isabel, Hazel, and Ike are some of the most most well known. They bring huge amounts of rain, high winds, and big waves out on the Lakes. 

Right now, the weather models are showing a large high pressure area in the middle of the United States that will hold the hurricane over the northern Gulf coast for a while, but it will slip to the east and allow the remains of Isaac to move north directly towards Southern Ontario. Because of the slow movement of the high, Southern Ontario may not see as big an impact as we've seen before, but as the long weekend approaches, so will the storm. The big question will be whether those remnants will be held up too long to make much of an impact.

"With any tropical system, especially as it moves towards us, we're looking in the fairly long range at the moment," explains Robinson. "Some models have the remnants of it coming up into southern Ontario, but again, because we're looking at the very, very long range, it is possible that it will completely miss us."

With files from The Canadian Press

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