Hurricane Isaac makes landfall in southeast Louisiana

Issac's five-day forecast as of 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the National Hurricane Center.

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Issac's five-day forecast as of 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the National Hurricane Center.

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Isaac spun into the southern Louisiana coast late Tuesday, sending floodwaters surging and unleashing fierce winds as residents hunkered down behind boarded-up windows. New Orleans calmly waited out another storm on the eve of Hurricane Katrina's seventh anniversary, hoping the city's strengthened levees will hold.

Isaac, a massive storm spanning nearly 200 miles from its center, made landfall at about 6:45 p.m. near the mouth of the Mississippi River. But it was zeroing in on New Orleans, about 75 miles to the northwest, turning streets famous for all-hours celebrations into ghost boulevards.

The storm drew intense scrutiny because of its timing — just before the anniversary of the hurricane that devastated that city, while the first major speeches of the Republican National Convention went on in Tampa, Fla., already delayed and tempered by the storm

While many residents stayed put, evacuations were ordered in low-lying areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, where officials closed 12 shorefront casinos. By late Tuesday, more than 100,000 homes and businesses had lost power.

Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, said Isaac's core would pass west of New Orleans with winds close to 80 mph and head for Baton Rouge.

"On this course, the hurricane will gradually weaken," Rappaport said Tuesday night from the Miami-based center. He said gusts could reach about 100 mph at times, especially at higher levels which could damage high-rise buildings in New Orleans.

As Isaac neared the city, there was little fear or panic. With New Orleans' airport closed, tourists retreated to hotels and most denizens of a coastline that has witnessed countless hurricanes decided to ride out the storm.

"Isaac is the son of Abraham," said Margaret Thomas, who was trapped for a week in her home in New Orleans' Broadmoor neighborhood by Katrina's floodwaters, yet chose to stay put this time. "It's a special name that means 'God will protect us'."

Officials, chastened by memories and experience, advised caution.

"We don't expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category 1 storm that can kill you," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, urging people to use common sense and to stay off any streets that may flood.

Tens of thousands of people were told to leave low-lying areas, including 700 patients of Louisiana nursing homes, but officials decided not to call for mass evacuations like those that preceded Katrina, which packed 135 mph winds in 2005.

Isaac also promised to test a New Orleans levee system bolstered after the catastrophic failures during Hurricane Katrina. But in a city that has already weathered Hurricane Gustav in 2008, calm prevailed.

"I feel safe," said Pamela Young, who settled in to her home in the Lower 9th Ward — a neighborhood devastated by Katrina — with dog Princess and her television. "Everybody's talking 'going, going,' but the thing is, when you go, there's no telling what will happen. The storm isn't going to just hit here."

Young, who lives in a new, two-story home built to replace the one destroyed by Katrina, said she wasn't worried about the levees.

"If the wind isn't too rough, I can stay right here," she said, tapping on her wooden living room coffee table. "If the water comes up, I can go upstairs."

While far less powerful than Katrina, Isaac posed similar political challenges, a reminder of how the storm seven years ago became a symbol of government ignorance and ineptitude.

Political fallout was already simmering. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who canceled his trip to the convention, said the Obama administration's disaster declaration fell short of the federal help he had requested, and asked for a promise to be reimbursed for storm preparation costs.

"We learned from past experiences, you can't just wait. You've got to push the federal bureaucracy," Jindal said.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said such requests would be addressed after the storm.

Obama promised that Americans will help each other recover, "no matter what this storm brings."

"When disaster strikes, we're not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first," Obama said at a campaign rally at Iowa State University. "We're one family. We help our neighbors in need."

The storm's landfall didn't appear to affect prime-time coverage of the RNC, where Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were to speak after a day of delays.

While politicians from both parties were careful to show their concern for those in the storm's path, Gulf residents and visitors tried to make the best of the situation on the ground.

In New Orleans' French Quarter, Hyatt hotel employee Nazareth Joseph braced for a busy week and fat overtime paychecks. Joseph said he was trapped in the city for several days after Katrina and helped neighbors escape the floodwaters.

"We made it through Katrina; we can definitely make it through this. It's going to take a lot more to run me. I know how to survive," he said.

Maureen McDonald of Long Beach, Ind., strolled the French Quarter on her 80th birthday wearing a poncho, accompanied by family who traveled from three different cities to meet her in New Orleans to celebrate.

"The storm hasn't slowed us down. We're having the best time," she said.

But farther east along the Gulf, veterans of past hurricanes made sure to take precautions.

At a highway rest stop along Alabama's I-10, Bonnie Schertler, 54, of Waveland, Miss., said she left her coastal home for her father's place in Alabama "because of the 'coulds.'"

"I just feel like the storm may stay for a few days and that wind might just pound and pound and pound and pound," said Schertler, whose former home in Waveland was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. A slow storm is more dangerous, she said, "'cause it can knock down just virtually everything if it just hovers forever."

Local officials, who imposed curfews in Mississippi's Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties. And in Theodore, Ala., 148 people took refuge in a shelter at the town's high school by midday Tuesday, with minds focused as much on the past as on the present storm.

Charlotte McCrary, 41, at the shelter with husband, Bryan, and their two sons, 3-year-old Tristan and 1-year-old Gabriel, recalled the year she spent living in a FEMA trailer after Katrina destroyed her home.

Seven years later, the storm reminds her that she still hasn't gotten back to same place.

"I think what it is," Bryan McCrary said, "is it brings back a lot of bad memories."

POSTED EARLIER

NEW ORLEANS — Hurricane Isaac has gotten a little stronger as it closes in on the Gulf Coast.

Isaac's maximum sustained winds increased Tuesday afternoon to 80 mph.

The storm is expected to make landfall late Tuesday on the eve of the seventh anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.

While not as powerful as Katrina, Isaac threatens to flood the coasts of four states with storm surge and heavy rains on its way to New Orleans, where residents have been hunkering down behind levees fortified after Katrina struck.

POSTED EARLIER:

Isaac now Cat. 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Finally reaching hurricane status, the unwieldy and wobbly Isaac bore down on this city Tuesday, offering one of the first tests for a stronger, more fortified levee system built after the catastrophic failures during Hurricane Katrina.

Seven years after that storm transformed this city, the mood was calm as the first wave of rain bands and wind gusts rolled ashore, and these battle-tested residents took the storm in stride, knowing they've been through a lot worse. Isaac looked to make landfall as early as Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of at least 74 mph — much lower than the 135 mph winds Katrina packed in 2005.

Many residents along the Gulf Coast opted to ride it out in shelters or at home and officials, while sounding alarm about the dangers of the powerful storm, decided not to call for mass evacuations. Still, there was a threat of storm surge and the possibility of nearly two feet of rain as it slowly trudges inland.

"We don't expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category 1 storm that can kill you," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, urging people to use common sense and to stay off any streets that may flood.

Isaac became a hurricane Tuesday, a massive storm that reached more than 200 miles from its center, threatening to flood the coasts of four states with storm surge and heavy rains on its way to New Orleans.

At businesses near the French Quarter, windows were boarded up and sandbags were stacked a few feet high in front of doors.

Some tourists said they would ride out the storm near the city's famed Bourbon Street, and there was little to suggest a sense of worry.

New Orleans has been through Betsy, Camille and Katrina.

At a Hyatt hotel in the French Quarter, Nazareth Joseph braced for a busy week and fat overtime paychecks. Joseph said he was trapped in the city for several days after Katrina and helped neighbors escape the floodwaters.

"We made it through Katrina, we can definitely make it through this. It's going to take a lot more to run me, I know how to survive," he said.

The Coast Guard was searching the Gulf of Mexico near the Florida-Alabama state line Tuesday for a man didn't return home from a water-scooter trip as Isaac was approaching. The search began after the man's wife called the Pensacola, Fla., station about 8:45 p.m. Monday, Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash said.

Otherwise, the damage so far in the United States was political: Republicans cut one day off their presidential nominating convention in Tampa, though in the end it bypassed the bayside city. Isaac is also testing elected officials along the Gulf from governors on down to show they're prepared for an emergency response.

President Barack Obama said Gulf Coast residents should listen to local authorities and follow their directions as Isaac approached.

"Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously," Obama said.

In Houma, a city southwest of New Orleans, people filled a municipal auditorium-turned-shelter. However, in the bayou country of Terrebonne Parish off Highway 24, storms pose a perennial dilemma for those living a hardscrabble life.

While some of the homes along Bayou Terrebonne and other nearby waterways show signs of affluence, this section of Louisiana 24 is mostly lined with trailer homes or small, often run-down houses. Staying could be dangerous, but many here who could be in harm's way have nowhere to go and little money to get there, especially given the high price of gasoline.

Monica Boudreaux lives in a trailer on low-lying land but was talking Tuesday morning with a cousin who lived closer to the bayou. They and two friends chatted as the storm approached. Boudreaux laughed when asked what she'll do if the storm hits.

"I'm surrounded by all family," she said, referring to her friends as well as her cousin. "I'll just pick up my little fat feet and run, I guess."

Water may be worse than wind because the storm could push walls of water while dumping rain to flood the low-lying coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

New Orleans is in much better shape than it was before Katrina with an injection of about $14 billion in federal funds to fix damage done by Katrina and upgrade the system.

The Army Corps of Engineers has spent the last seven years working nearly around the clock to raise levees several feet, install new stronger floodwalls at critical places and strengthen almost every section of the 130-mile perimeter that protects the greater New Orleans area.

The system is built to hold out storm surge of about 30 feet where the city's boundaries meet the swamps and lakes near the Gulf of Mexico.

The improvements include several massive floodgates that are shut when a storm approaches. In particular, a new surge barrier and gate that closes off the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal near the Lower 9th Ward has reduced the risk of flooding in an area long viewed as the city's Achilles' tendon.

Still, there could be problems, especially is Isaac dumps lots of rain on the city.

"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 here."

In Mississippi, beachfront casinos were shutting down late Tuesday morning as a beach road flooded and residents hurried to shelters. Coastal residents Charlotte Timmons and Brenda Batey said they planned to stay put unless Isaac took a more menacing turn, believing it wouldn't cause the devastation of some past storms.

Farther away on the Alabama coast, Isaac had begun pelting the shore with intermittent downpours — one moment it was dry, and the next brought rain blowing sideways in a strong breeze. Gov. Robert Bentley lifted mandatory evacuation orders for low-lying coastal areas but encouraged residents to remain vigilant nonetheless.

The boardwalk at the tourist town of Gulf Shores was virtually deserted except for John McCombs, who ventured out to see waves lapping at the seawall at the public beach.

Within moments he was drenched and running for cover as a band of rain hit the wooden walkway.

"That's it. It's here," he said, scurrying back across the street.

One question haunting locals is how much oil left over from the Gulf oil spill in 2010 might wind up on the beaches because of Isaac. Experts believe large tar mats lie submerged just off the coast, but no one knows where they are or how many might be in the Gulf.

Isaac was centered about 75 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River at midday and was moving northwest at 10 mph.

Still, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned that Isaac, especially if it strikes at high tide, could cause storm surges of up to 12 feet along the coasts of southeast Louisiana and Mississippi and up to 6 feet as far away as the Florida Panhandle.

On Tuesday morning, there were few signs on New Orleans' famed Canal Street that a hurricane was imminent. A group of apparently intoxicated tourists asked 30-year-old Adrian Thomas to snap their photo as he scanned the headlines of The Times-Picayune in a newspaper box.

Thomas said he was waiting for his father to wire him money so he could leave for his hometown of Greenville, Miss., which is along the Mississippi River more than 200 miles from the coast. However, he said he might not make it out in time — and he was just fine with that.

"I believe it's going to be all right," he said. "If I have to stay here and ride it out, I'll ride it out."

POSTED EARLIER:

MIAMI — Isaac was on the verge of ballooning into a hurricane Tuesday that could flood the coasts of four states with storm surge and heavy rains on its way to New Orleans, where residents hunkered down behind levees fortified after Katrina struck seven years ago this week.

Shelters were open for those who chose to stay or missed the chance to get away before the outer bands of the large storm blow ashore ahead of a forecast landfall in southeast Louisiana on Tuesday night or early Wednesday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami predicted Isaac would power up to hurricane strength, which is measured by winds of 74 mph, later in the day. It could be at least a Category 1 hurricane by the time it's expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana.

In Houma, a city southwest of New Orleans, people filled a municipal auditorium-turned-shelter. In the bayou country of Terrebonne Parish off Highway 24, storms pose a perennial dilemma for those living a hardscrabble life.

While some of the homes along Bayou Terrebonne and other nearby waterways show signs of affluence, this section of Louisiana 24 is mostly lined with trailer homes or small, often run-down houses. Staying could be dangerous, but many here who could be in harm's way have nowhere to go and little money to get there, especially given the high price of gasoline.

Monica Boudreaux lives in a trailer on low-lying land but was talking Tuesday morning with a cousin who lived closer to the bayou. They and two friends chatted as the storm approached. Boudreaux laughed when asked what she'll do if the storm hits.

"I'm surrounded by all family," she said, referring to her friends as well as her cousin. "I'll just pick up my little fat feet and run, I guess."

Forecasters warned that Isaac was a large storm whose effects could reach out 200 miles from its center. Water may be worse than wind because the storm could push walls of water while dumping rain to flood the low-lying coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

So far, the main damage in the United States was political: Republicans cut one day off their presidential nominating convention in Tampa in case the storm struck there, though in the end it bypassed the bayside city. Isaac is also testing elected officials along the Gulf from governors on down to show they're prepared for an emergency response.

Isaac's track is forecast to bring it to New Orleans seven years after Katrina hit as a much stronger storm on Aug. 29, 2005.

This time, federal officials say the updated levees around the city are equipped to handle storms stronger than Isaac. The Army Corps of Engineers was given about $14 billion to improve flood defenses, and most of the work has been completed.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu did not activate a mandatory evacuation Monday. Instead, officials urged residents to hunker down and make do with the supplies they had.

But with landfall expected near the Katrina anniversary, anxiety was high, especially in the Lower 9th Ward, wiped out by Katrina after floodwalls burst and let the waters rush in.

"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 here."

He leaned over the banister of his porch railing and looked out onto empty lots where houses stood before Katrina. His neighborhood, just a few blocks away from where the floodwall protecting the Lower 9th Ward broke open, remains largely empty.

Isaac had begun pelting the Alabama coast with intermittent downpours Tuesday morning — one moment it was dry, and the next brought rain blowing sideways in a strong breeze. The boardwalk at the tourist town of Gulf Shores was virtually deserted except for John McCombs, who ventured out to see waves lapping at the seawall at the public beach.

Within moments he was drenched and running for cover as a band of rain hit the wooden walkway.

"That's it. It's here," he said, scurrying back across the street.

One question haunting locals is how much oil left over from the Gulf oil spill in 2010 might wind up on the beaches because of Isaac. Experts believe large tar mats lie submerged just off the coast, but no one knows where they are or how many might be in the Gulf.

Early Tuesday, Isaac was packing top sustained winds of 70 mph. The storm system was centered about 105 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River just before 8 a.m. EDT and moving northwest at 7 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Although Isaac's approach on the eve of the Katrina anniversary invited comparisons, the storm is nowhere near as powerful as Katrina was when it struck. Katrina at one point reached Category 5 status with winds of more than 157 mph, and made landfall as a Category 3 storm.

Still, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned that Isaac, especially if it strikes at high tide, could cause storm surges of up to 12 feet along the coasts of southeast Louisiana and Mississippi and up to 6 feet as far away as the Florida Panhandle.

The levees surrounding New Orleans are designed to withstand far more than that 12-foot surge, in some cases storm surge as high as 26 feet. The city's flood control system can pump out an inch of water per hour for the first hour, and a half-inch of water each hour after that.

Rain from the storm could total up to 14 inches, with some isolated areas getting as much as 20 inches, along the coast from southeast Louisiana to the extreme western end of the Florida Panhandle.

On Tuesday morning, there were few signs on the city's famed Canal Street that a tropical storm or hurricane was imminent. A group of apparently intoxicated tourists asked 30-year-old Adrian Thomas to snap their photo as he scanned the headlines of The Times-Picayune in a newspaper box.

Thomas said he was waiting for his father to wire him money so he could leave for his hometown of Greenville, Miss., which is along the Mississippi River more than 200 miles from the coast. However, he said he might not make it out in time — and he was just fine with that.

"I believe it's going to be all right," he said. "If I have to stay here and ride it out, I'll ride it out."

POSTED AT 1:05 p.m.

The road of State Road 92 to Goodland is under water as Tropical Storm Isaac pushed up a high tide storm surge Monday.

Several trucks, including a UPS driver, have risked passage but other drivers in car are waiting for the water to recede.

Others left their cars on the dry road, loaded up belongings and started walking to town.

Asked if she had heard of flooded homes on Goodland, one of the walkers, Hilary Bouvier, of Goodland said: "We're about to find out."

POSTED AT 1 p.m.

Collier and Lee public schools and Florida Gulf Coast University will resume classes tomorrow after finding little damage from Tropical Storm Isaac.

POSTED AT 12:30

Some parts of Everglades City and Chokoloskee are experiencing flooding as a storm surge comes through the area.

Collier County Emergency Services Director Dan Summers called the surging water "inconvenient," but said it was not expected to be serious.

"It's a bit more than we anticipated," he said. "We know it is over the crown of the road in some places. It hasn't flooded out any homes, but there are homes with water in their front yards and businesses with water ponding in the parking lots."

Kenny Brown, whose office sits within sight of the entrance into Chokoloskee on Smallwood Drive, said nearly a foot of water has covered the road after high tide early this afternoon. Brown forecasted water on the causeway might rise to three feet, which could prevent vehicles from reaching the island.

"It's fairly rapid," Brown said. "It's not like a foot in 20 or 30 minutes, but it's just creeping up every few minutes."

POSTED at 11:45

Collier County closed Caxambas Pass Park on Marco Island as a passing Tropical Storm Isaac kicked up wind and surf Monday morning.

Waves were breaking over the park's boat ramp seawall and jangling the park's metal floating docks.

A steady stream of gawkers were filing into the park, along with a group of Jet Skiers preparing to go into the choppy waters before the park closed.

Rough surf and wind also drew surfers to South Marco beach Monday morning and kiteboarder Enrique Gianello to an overflowing lagoon at Tigertail Beach.

"We love it," said Gianello, the owner of Naples Paddleboarding and Windstalker Kiteboarding. "It's a beautiful day."

POSTED AT 10:43 a.m.

After mobilizing resources today in anticipation of Isaac, Collier County Emergency Management Director Dan Summers said it was time to get back to work demobilizing those resources.

"We have partial activation of the emergency services center today so we can monitor weather conditions, but we should be getting back to normal," he said.

Summers said 38 people spent the night in the special needs shelter at Palmetto Ridge High School in Golden Gate Estates.

"It was a very quiet night," he said.

Summers said the homes of those people in the shelter are being checked before they return.

"We still have some wind and rain, so we are going to let those conditions improve before we start the process of getting those people home," he said.

The county closed the rest of its shelters Sunday. Summers said county staff would be returning to those shelters to remove supplies before students return to school on Tuesday.

Early Monday, Summers said he was on a conference call with the National Weather Service and expected tornado watches to be lifted by Monday afternoon.

At Southwest Florida International Airport, 12 flights were cancelled Monday morning, according to the airport's website.

Airport spokeswoman Vicki Moreland said flights should normalize about 1 p.m. with the exception of flights to Key West, which were cancelled until Tuesday. But, she said cancellations still could happen.

"Say you were going to Houston. You have to fly over the Gulf and over the weather. It's not always our weather that gets flights cancelled. A lot of times it is weather somewhere else," she said.

POSTED AT 10 a.m.

Some flights at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) are canceled this morning and early afternoon due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

Those planning to fly or meet passengers within the next 24 hours are urged to contact their respective airlines for the most up-to-date information on any impact by Tropical Storm Isaac. For airline websites and phone numbers, please visit www.flylcpa.com/airlines.

As weather patterns change, so can the status of flights, which is why we urge passengers to contact their airlines.

Thanks for keeping the public informed and encouraging them to contact their respective airlines as opposed to contacting the airport.

8:30 a.m. update

As of 8 a.m. EDT Monday, Tropical Storm Isaac was centered about 185 miles (295 kilometers) west-southwest of Fort Meyers, Fla., and 360 miles (575 kilometers) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Isaac had top sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) and was moving west-northwest near 14 mph (22 kph).

Tropical Storm Isaac rolled over the open Gulf of Mexico on Monday, where it was expected to grow into a hurricane before hitting land somewhere between Louisiana and Florida and close to the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The storm that left eight dead in Haiti blew past the Florida Keys with little damage and promised a drenching but little more for Tampa, where the planned Monday start of the Republican National Convention was pushed back a day in case Isaac passed closer to the bayside city.

The National Hurricane Center predicted Isaac would grow to a Category 1 hurricane over the warm Gulf and possibly hit late Tuesday somewhere along a roughly 300-mile stretch from the bayous southwest of New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle. That would be one day shy of seven years after Hurricane Katrina struck catastrophically in 2005.

Earlier predictions said Isaac would be a Category 2 hurricane but National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that Isaac wouldn't be as strong as they initially thought. But Knabb urged residents not to focus their preparations the storm's current strength because such storms often do not stick to forecasters' predictions.

The size of the warning area and the storm's wide bands of rain and wind prompted emergency declarations in four states, and the hurricane-tested residents were boarding up homes, sticking up on food and water or getting ready to evacuate.

"I'm helping my friend pack and board up his beach house just in case (Isaac) makes its way over here," Pensacola resident Andrew Flock said Sunday.

Forecasters said Isaac could pack a double punch of flood threats for the Gulf Coast. If it hits during high tide, the storm could push floodwaters as deep as 12 feet on shore in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and up to six feet in the Florida Panhandle.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called a state of emergency, and 53,000 residents of St. Charles Parish near New Orleans were told to leave ahead of the storm. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley also declared states of emergency.

Even though the storm was moving well west of Tampa, tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains were possible in the area because of Isaac's large size, forecasters said. A small group of protesters braved rainy weather Sunday and vowed to continue despite the weather, which already forced the Republicans to cancel Monday's opening session of the convention. Instead, the GOP will briefly gavel the gathering to order Monday afternoon and then recess until Tuesday.

Tampa Mayor Bill Buckhorn, a Democrat, said the weather would be "squirrely" but predicted the storm would not unduly interfere with the convention.

"We're going to show the world on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday what a great place this is," he said. "As a state and a city, we're going to put on a good show and be a great host for the Republican Party."

Florida, historically the state most prone to hurricanes, has been hurricane-free since it was hit four times each in 2004 and 2005. Isaac will likely prove barely a memory for South Florida and Keys residents, who mostly took the storm in stride as its center passed just south of Key West on Sunday.

The storm did knock out power temporarily for around 16,000 customers throughout South Florida, and 555 flights were canceled at Miami International Airport. That forced some people to shuffle their travel plans and kept many, at least for a day, from enjoying their beach vacations.

In the low-lying Keys, isolated patches of flooding were reported and some roads were littered with downed palm fronds and small branches. But officials said damage appeared to be minimal, and many Keys residents held true to their any-excuse-for-a-party reputation.

The Gulf Coast hasn't been hit by a hurricane since 2008, when Dolly, Ike and Gustav all struck the region.

Before reaching Florida, Isaac was blamed for eight deaths in Haiti and two more in the Dominican Republic, and downed trees and power lines in Cuba. It bore down on the Keys two days after the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, which caused more than $25 billion in damage and killed 26 people in South Florida.

8:10 a.m. update

Forecasters are now predicting that Isaac will become a Category 1 hurricane as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico instead of a Category 2.

National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb told ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday that Isaac won't be as strong as they initially thought when it hits land somewhere along the north Gulf Coast.

But Knabb urged residents not to focus their preparations the storm's current strength because such storms often do not stick to forecasters' predictions.

Already, the storm has brought wind and rain to parts of Florida and caused Republicans to cancel Monday's opening session of their national convention in Tampa.

7:20 a.m. update

EVERGLADES CITY — A few wind blown palm fronds. Some standing water in the streets. The occasional flooded front yard.

Just your average post-rainstorm morning in Everglades City.

Tropical Storm Isaac came and went through the small coastal towns of the region overnight, hardly making a dent in the area. No major damage was reported, and the rain barely made a mark in town.

Monday morning, residents started trickling through downtown Everglades City, chuckling at the hullabaloo made over a storm that never really came.

"Let me put it to you this way, they scared us to death down here, so everyone prepared for the worst," resident Vincent Parenti said, standing outside a downtown gas station. "Then it turned out to be nothing."

5:20 a.m. update

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Florida peninsula from Tarpon Springs southward on the Gulf Coast, an area that includes Lee and Collier counties and the Keys.

A hurricane watch remains in effect until 9 a.m. for Collier and Lee counties, as well as other areas of Southwest Florida.

5:15 a.m. update

As of the 5 a.m. advisory for Isaac, the tropical storm warning for Lake Okeechobee has been discontinued, as has the tropical storm warning for Florida’s east coast. The hurricane watch for the Florida Panhandle from east of Destin to Indian Pass also has been discontinued.

A new tropical storm warning and hurricane watch has been issued from Intracoastal City, La., to Morgan City, La. A tropical storm warning has been issued from east of Sabine Pass, La., to Intracoastal City.

5 a.m. update

At 5 a.m., Tropical Storm Isaac continues to move west-northwest at 14 mph over the eastern Gulf. The storm’s maximum sustained winds still are 65 mph, but are expected to strengthen today. Isaac is about 180 miles southwest of Fort Myers, the National Hurricane Center reports. The storm is about the same distance from Naples.

4:45 a.m. update

We'll still be feeling the fringe effects of Isaac through the day as the storm skirts by to our west, but weather conditions are expected to gradually improve through the day.

The center of Isaac will stay a couple hundred miles offshore, but the storm's circulation and moisture will be far reaching enough to bring in some off and on showers this morning and even this afternoon.

While the threat of severe weather should stay on the low side, there's still some concern for isolated tornadoes as broken bands of rain continue to spiral around Isaac and into Southwest Florida, NBC2 reports.

3:30 a.m. update

Tropical Storm Isaac churned toward the northern Gulf Coast early Monday and promised to give the Republican National Convention a good drenching after lashing the Florida Keys and Miami area with wind and rain.

The National Hurricane Center predicted Isaac would grow to a Category 2 hurricane over the warm Gulf and possibly hit late Tuesday somewhere along a stretch that starts west of New Orleans and runs to the edge of the Florida Panhandle. That would be one day shy of seven years after Hurricane Katrina struck catastrophically in 2005.

A Category 2 hurricane has sustained winds of between 96 and 110 mph and a possible strong storm surge.

2:15 a.m. update

As of 2 a.m. Monday, a tropical storm warning is still in effect for Lee and Collier counties, meaning tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.

A hurricane warning is in effect for east of Morgan City, La., to Destin on Florida’s Panhandle. This area includes New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. A hurricane watch is in effect for east of Destin to Indian Pass, Fla., near Apalachicola.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Florida peninsula from Jupiter Inlet southward on the east coast and from Tarpon Springs southward on the west coast. This includes Lee and Collier counties, Lake Okeechobee and the Keys.

2 a.m. update

At 2 a.m., Tropical Storm Isaac is moving west-northwest at 14 mph over the eastern Gulf with no change in strength of maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. Isaac is now about 110 miles west of Key West.

1:35 a.m. update

At least one reader was unhappy the Weather Channel predicted that Isaac would be 20 miles from Naples at 10 p.m. Sunday, but two hours later the storm track was 300 miles west.

"I flew in from Long Island to board up my Naples house for this? Calm winds, clear sky, no rain, no nothing. Better than a regular summer day," the reader writes. "We landed a man on the moon, we predicted hurricane tracks accurate for 100 years, yet 2012 we lost the ability! I think this was another phony news TV scam!"

12:55 a.m. update

Most of the damage down by Isaac so far has been in the Caribbean. At least eight people were killed by flooding in Haiti, including in tent cities filled with earthquake victims, and two others in the Dominican Republic. Isaac scraped Cuba, downing power lines and trees.

Did Isaac damage your home or property? Share your stories, photos or video by emailing them to cdesk@naplesnews.com.

12:30 a.m. update

The worst of Isaac may be over for Collier and Lee counties, but tornadoes with wind gusts up to 70 mph and dangerous lightning spawned by tropical weather bands from Isaac are still possible until 9 a.m. today. Because conditions are favorable for tornadoes in the area, be on the lookout for threatening weather conditions. Continue to monitor this site for additional weather information.

12:05 a.m. update

Tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado in our area until 9 a.m.; a tornado has not been sighted. A tornado warning will be issued by the National Weather Service if a tornado is seen.

If you have weather news to report or photos or video early this morning, please email to cdesk@naplesnews.com.

11:25 p.m. update

A tornado watch is in effect until 9 a.m. Monday for Collier and Lee counties, the National Weather Service reports.

The watch also is effective for Broward, Charolotte, Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and St. Lucie counties.

11:20 p.m. update

A flash flood watch remains in effect for parts of Collier Count, Glades and Hendry counties and other areas of southern Florida through Monday night.

The National Weather Service, which issued the watch about 8:45 p.m. Sunday, said 2 to 4 inches of ran fell over southern Florida with isolated 5 to 6 inches from rain bands of Tropical Storm Isaac since Sunday morning.

Isaac's rain bands should continue to affect southern Florida until Monday night, the NWS reported.

Other areas under the watch include coastal Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

10:45 p.m. update

Gov. Rick Scott announced he will hold a news briefing at noon Monday regarding Florida’s preparations and response for Tropical Storm Isaac at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center in Clearwater.

10:30 p.m. update

Marco Island police scaled back its Tropical Storm Isaac response Sunday night.

"The concern for significant flooding associated with storm surge has decreased based on current predictions," according to a police statement released late Sunday.

Marco still will feel tropical storm-force winds through the night and early morning, the statement says.

The city of Marco Island and the county's Emergency Operations Center are reducing staffing, and the city's storm hotline will cease at midnight Sunday.

8 p.m. update

Lee County has lifted its mandatory evacuation order.

The order had called for evacuating Bonita Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Big and Little Hickory Islands, Black Island, Lovers Key and San Carlos Island.

However, officials with the county Emergency Operations Center cautioned that winds of 30 to 40 mph were still expected late Sunday and early Monday, with heavy rain before Tropical Storm Isaac exits Southwest Florida.

Residents still are urged to use caution when crossing bridges or driving along coastal, low-lying roads.

6:30 p.m. update

Two volunteers in orange vests loaded a comforter and several bags onto a cart at South Fort Myers High School, and Susan McCartan drove off to park her car.

McCartan, 62, said she wanted to stay at her Fort Myers Beach home to watch the storm, but worried her basement-level apartment might flood.

She packed as much as she could into her Jeep – enough to "feed 10 people for two weeks" – and headed to the school, which was activated as a shelter Sunday morning.

About 30 people were inside by the time McCartan showed up around 4 p.m., shelter manager John Ludlum said.

Ludlum, who has been volunteering at shelters for nearly 14 years, said he never knows many people to expect.

"We're basically just getting started," he said.

In Bonita Springs, Paul Nicodemus stayed on Bonita Beach when the last two hurricanes came through, and he's not leaving for this one, either.

On Sunday, he took his kayak out into the waves. He piled sandbags in front of the beachfront home he house sits each summer.

Nearly all of the other homes around his had hurricane shutters up and appeared abandoned as the rain picked up. Melanie Fiato, who lives down the road, packed her bags, planning to stay at a friend's condo. As owner of 5 Star Beach Rentals, Fiato said she'd been "going nonstop" to prepare her 25 properties for the storm.

She decided to leave because of potential storm surges.

"I don't want to get caught in that," Fiato said.

Nicodemus said he's sat in the kitchen and watched waves come up underneath the home, and he's seen pieces of roofs fly clear across the beach in a matter of seconds.

Other people who stayed for the last hurricanes later said it was the "stupidest thing" they'd ever done, Nicodemus said. But he likes to stay.

"You can feel the power of nature," Nicodemus said. "That's the cool thing about being out here."

4:15 p.m. update

The bridge to Marco Island will remain open for Tropical Storm Isaac's overnight swipe and the city plans no voluntary or mandatory evacuations, Council Chairman Larry Magel said Sunday afternoon.

As the storm tracks to the west, away from Southwest Florida, the main concern was power outages and storm surge, depending on Isaac's timing, city officials said.

"If it's a low tide, we're fine," Magel said. "It it's at high tide, we're not so fine."

Marco is forecast to get 7 inches of rain on top of a storm surge of 4-6 feet expected to hit between low tide at 2 a.m. Monday and high tide at 8 a.m., Marco Fire Chief Mike Murphy said.

That storm surge is smaller than the 5-to-7 feet forecast yesterday, and Murphy said he hopes forecasters will revise the storm surge downward again later today.

So far, about 1,000 homes on the island have lost power, mostly in the Kendall Avenue area, but Lee County Electric Cooperative has restored power to all but a few, city emergency spokesman Dave Baer said.

Marco Island residents who have left the island in advance of Isaac will not need re-entry permits, Magel said. City offices will be open for business at 10 a.m. Monday, he said.

A fuel truck, front end loader and dump truck say in the city's parking lot Sunday, just in case, Magel, the council chairman said.

4:10 p.m. update

Mike Castellano knew there was no sense hanging out the "Open" sign Sunday at his Capri Fish House restaurant on Isles of Capri.

Instead, he cleared the tables from the middle of the waterfront tiki bar out back to make room for a game of cornhole, where players try to throw bean bags into holes in pieces of board on the floor.

Add some ribs and kielbasa, reggae music, a steady drip of rain-weary friends looking for a cold beer - plus Miley the dachshund and Mario the lab-pit bull puppy scurrying around the wood plank floors - and it's a hurricane party.

"That's all we've been doing all day," 20-year-old local Ashley Filer said. "Playing cornhole and eating."

4 p.m. update

The streets of Goodland, where many residents live in mobile homes subject to the county's voluntary evacuation, were deserted Sunday afternoon.

Plywood covered the doors and windows at The Little Bar on Goodland; one was spray-painted, "See You in October."

Stan's Idle Hour, which is closed for August and September, was draped in drizzle Sunday afternoon instead of the usual crowd of revelers.

On Marco Island, city officials warned against joyriders taking to the streets overnight to check out flooding and urged residents to stay indoors.

3:30 p.m. update

Customers trickled into Total Wine on Airport-Pulling Road on Sunday afternoon as rain trickled down outside.

Most were buying alcohol for themselves, but a few were preparing for hurricane parties; get-togethers common during such storms where guests hole up with a host and some booze to entertain themselves while the storm passes.

"Everyone's saying that they're stocking up," said Ken Allen, a front-end supervisor for the store, which opened at 9 a.m. Sunday with no plans to close Monday.

Naples native Daniel Portella, 24, bought ice and rum to mix with fruit punch for a drink called a hurricane.

"This is nothing," said Portella, who doesn't usually evacuate until the storm has reached a Category 3. "We're gonna ride it out together."

Jacques Cariot, owner of Bleu Provence in downtown Naples, used to hold a private hurricane party at his restaurant each year.

This time, he's opening the party up to the public who can eat dinner and taste wine tonight beginning at 5 p.m. Reservations aren't required and the cheese and crackers are free.

"We are ready for whatever happens," said Cariot, who has planned for about 100 guests. "Hopefully we'll have power and everything."

2:30 p.m. update

EVERGLADES CITY — Residents have hunkered down Sunday afternoon along the coastline in the Everglades City region, where a steady rain continues and winds remain brisk, if unremarkable, ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac.

Evacuations remained mandatory in the southern part of the county, as waterways haven't significantly risen to flooding levels. Much of the town, already quiet during the tourism off-season, has closed down, with locals preparing generators and a few boarding up homes and businesses.

Everglades City Mayor Sammy Hamilton Jr. said city staff have been going door-to-door in the region and employing a phone tree to warn residents.. Hamilton said preparations are "ahead of schedule."

"We've got everything ready and under control in case something does happen," Hamilton said.

City staff has particularly focused on low-lying areas and streets with trailer homes, suggesting evacuations ahead of Monday morning's anticipated storms.

"They said probably go ahead and get out, but some of them are not too concerned," Hamilton said of those residents. "But if I see that it's going to worse, which I'll know later on today, we'll ask them to leave."

A few homeowners reported a brief power outage lasting an hour or two in the early afternoon, but power had been restored as of about 2 p.m.

In case winds knock out electricity again, Chokoloskee resident Duane McMillin, 59, tinkered with a 12-year-old generator beneath his stilted home, located about 100 feet from the bayshore, Sunday afternoon.

"I haven't seen a lot of people out, but there sure are some people boarding up and putting their boats up," McMillin said.

2 p.m. update

Tropical Storm Isaac continues on its same course to the west/northwest thus avoiding Southwest Florida and on track for Louisiana coast.

Collier County is under a tornado watch but is only experiencing rain and light winds. Power outages have also been limited. FPL reports only 380 without power in Collier County, extremely low considering there are 184,000 customers in the county.

Lee County has mandatory evacuations for Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach.

The severe weather has canceled more than 500 flights at Miami International Airport. At Southwest Florida International (RSW) Southwest Airlines, Cape Air, Air Tran, American and United have canceled flights today.

The bridge to Marco Island will remain open for Tropical Storm Isaac's overnight swipe and the city plans no voluntary or mandatory evacuations, Council Chairman Larry Magel said this afternoon.

As the storm tracks to the west, away from Southwest Florida, the main concern is power outages and storm surge, depending on Isaac's timing, city officials said.

"If it's a low tide, we're fine," Magel said. "It it's at high tide, we're not so fine."

Marco is forecast to get 7 inches of rain on top of a storm surge of 4-6 feet expected to hit between low tide at 2 a.m. Monday and high tide at 8 a.m., Marco Fire Chief Mike Murphy said.

That storm surge is smaller than the 5-7 feet forecast yesterday, and Murphy said he hopes forecasters will revise the storm surge downward again later today.

So far, about 1,000 homes on the island have lost power, mostly in the Kendall Avenue area, but Lee County Electric Cooperative has restored power to all but a few, city emergency spokesman Dave Baer said.

Marco Island residents who have left the island in advance of Isaac will not need re-entry permits, Magel said. City offices will be open for business at 10 a.m. Monday, he said.

A fuel truck, front end loader and dump truck say in the city's parking lot Sunday, just in case, Magel, the council chairman said.

The residence halls at Florida Gulf Coast University were quiet Sunday afternoon.

Nearly 90 percent of the 4,210 residential students left campus with the storm approaching, university spokeswoman Susan Evans said.

Junior Slade Schell, one of 500 students left, was enjoying the peace.

"It's like free study time," said Schell, 20, who hopes to attend medical school after graduating from FGCU.

He said the dormitories cleared out Saturday after school officials sent an email encouraging students to go home, and mentioning evacuating the dorms.

Schell, who grew up in Florida, was unconcerned.

He pulled a pizza out of the oven, ready to get back to studying.

"It would almost be too quiet if I didn't have the TV on," he said.

A few buildings over, a group of friends got ready for a Slip n' Slide party at a friend's house. The three sophomores weren't worried about the storm, though at least one set of parents was.

Vicki Ewell said her parents, who live in Kansas, are "freaking out."

"My parents are calling like, 'Be in the bathtub and wear a helmet,'" the 19-year-old said.

Instead, Ewell and her friends planned to spend Monday at the beach.

REPORT FROM EVERGLADES CITY

EVERGLADES CITY — Residents have hunkered down Sunday afternoon along the coastline in the Everglades City region, where a steady rain continues and winds remain brisk, if unremarkable, ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac.

Evacuations remained mandatory in the southern part of the county, as waterways haven't significantly risen to flooding levels. Much of the town, already quiet during the tourism offseason, has closed down, with locals preparing generators and a few boarding up homes and businesses.

Everglades City Mayor Sammy Hamilton Jr. said city staff have been going door-to-door in the region and employing a phone tree to warn residents.. Hamilton said preparations are "ahead of schedule."

"We've got everything ready and under control in case something does happen," Hamilton said.

City staff has particularly focused on low-lying areas and streets with trailer homes, suggesting evacuations ahead of Monday morning's anticipated storms.

"They said probably go ahead and get out, but some of them are not too concerned," Hamilton said of those residents. "But if I see that it's going to worse, which I'll know later on today, we'll ask them to leave."

A few homeowners reported a brief power outage lasting an hour or two in the early afternoon, but power had been restored as of about 2 p.m.

In case winds knock out electricity again, Chokoloskee resident Duane McMillin, 59, tinkered with a 12-year-old generator beneath his stilted home, located about 100 feet from the bayshore, Sunday afternoon.

"I haven't seen a lot of people out, but there sure are some people boarding up and putting their boats up," McMillin said.

1 p.m. update

Tropical Storm Isaac started pelting the Florida Keys with rain and strong winds on Sunday, and it could strengthen into a dangerous hurricane by the time it starts hitting the northern Gulf Coast in the coming days.

Collier County is under a tornado watch and is already experiencing 30 mph wind gust and rain bands from Isaac. There is a voluntary evacuation order as Isaac appears to be heading west of Southwest Florida.

Exactly where Isaac would hit once it passed the Keys remained highly uncertain, with forecasters saying hurricane conditions could reach anywhere from the New Orleans metro area to the Florida Panhandle by Tuesday. And the storm is large: tropical storm conditions extend more than 200 miles from the storm's center, meaning Isaac could cause significant damage even in places where it does not pass directly overhead.

Isaac has brought havoc to the Caribbean already, killing seven people in Haiti and downing trees and power lines in Cuba. And it had officials worried enough in Tampa that they shuffled around some plans for the Republican National Convention.

However, Isaac had yet to create a panic in South Florida. In Miami Shores, some residents said they hadn't even put up storm shutters. Edwin Reeder, 65, stopped by a gas station to pick up some drinks and snacks. He didn't bother topping off his car's half-full fuel tank.

Reeder said he hadn't put up storm shutters, instead just clearing his gutters so all the water could drain. And while he didn't stock up on canned goods for himself, he did buy some extra cat and dog food for his pets.

"This isn't a storm," he said. "It's a rain storm."

On Key West, locals followed time-worn storm preparedness rituals while awaiting the storm after Isaac swamped the Caribbean and shuffled plans for the Republican National Convention. Hundreds of flights were canceled Sunday as the storm bore down.

A steady line of cars moved north Saturday along the Overseas Highway, the only road linking the Florida Keys. Residents boarded up windows, laid down sandbags and shuttered businesses ahead of the approaching storm. Even Duval Street, Key West's storied main drag, was subdued for a weekend, though not enough to stop music from playing or drinks from being poured.

"We'll just catch every place that's open," said Ted Lamarche, a 48-year-old pizzeria owner visiting Key West to celebrate his anniversary with his wife, Deanna. They walked along on Duval Street, where a smattering of people still wandered even as many storefronts were boarded up and tourists sported ponchos and yellow slickers.

"Category None!" one man shouted in a show of optimism.

The Keys were bracing storm surge of up to 4 feet, strong winds and the possibility of tornadoes. The island chain's two airports closed Saturday night, and volunteers and some residents began filing into shelters.

"This is a huge inconvenience," said Dale Shelton, a 57-year-old retiree in Key West who was staying in a shelter.

Isaac has already left a trail of suffering across the Caribbean.

At least seven people were reported dead in Haiti, including a 10-year-old girl who had a wall fall on her, according to the country's Civil Protection Office. The government also reported "considerable damage" to agriculture and homes. Nearly 8,000 people were evacuated from their houses or earthquake shelters and more than 4,000 were taken to temporary shelters.

The Grise River in Haiti overflowed north of Port-au-Prince, sending chocolate-brown water spilling through the sprawling shantytown of Cite Soleil, where many people grabbed what possessions they could and carried them on their heads, wading through waist-deep water.

After Isaac passes the Keys, it will move over the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to gain significant strength. It could ultimately make landfall on the northern Gulf Coast late Tuesday or early Wednesday. However, forecasters have stressed that the storm's exact path remains highly uncertain.

"Definitely the northern Gulf Coast should be preparing for a hurricane right now," Jessica Schauer, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Isaac isn't likely to hit Tampa head-on, but it could still lash the city with rain and strong winds just as the convention ramps up. A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of Florida's west coast, including Tampa Bay.

Convention officials said they would meet briefly on Monday, then immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, when the storm is expected to have passed. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency and canceled his plans to attend convention events on Sunday and Monday.

As of 8 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 80 miles (129 kilometers) southeast of Key West, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Isaac had top sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph).

It was moving to the west-northwest toward the Keys at 18 mph (29 kph).

12:30 p.m. update

As Isaac tracks to the west, residents should be aware of potential thunderstorms, flooding and debris tonight and tomorrow according to Collier County's Emergency Operations Center.

At a noon press conference, Dan Summers, director of the county's emergency services bureau, said the center continues to monitor the storm, which is expected to bring between five and eight inches of rain tonight.

A voluntary evacuation is in place today. Should the storm change in direction or intensity, Summers said that recommendation could be upgraded to a mandatory evacuation.

Tornado watches are in effect for the county the next 12 to 24 hours. In the event of a tornado warning, residents should seek shelter in an interior hallway or room of their home.

Summers stressed that mobile home residents should seek more secure shelter.

Summers said scattered power outages are likely today and that the rules of a four-way stop will apply should they affect roadways and intersections.

Travel today and tomorrow should be limited to essential travel, Summers said, and residents are encouraged to stay at home.

Summers said there are no predicted fuel or retail supply shortages for the county at this time.

Shelters have been open since 10 a.m. this morning, including accommodations at Palmetto Ridge High School for special needs guests and their caregivers.

County trash collection scheduled for tomorrow will not take place, Summers said.

High tides will be monitored from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday with a potential for a storm surge of 5 to 7 feet.

Residents can call 239-252-8444 for the center's hotline or visit www.collierem.org for more information.

Bonita Beach Village was nearly deserted Sunday afternoon as Jeffrey Murphy secured hurricane shutters over the window of a white mobile home.

After officials evacuated the mobile home park, Murphy, a contractor, came to "tie up loose ends" for some of the residents. That means moving children's toys and unscrewing flood lights -- things he says people forget.

With a river on one side and the ocean just across the street, the streets of the park will flood with water, Murphy said, holding a hand three feet off the ground to show how high.

Some of the things people left unsecured, Murphy said, will "be history."

"A lot of people haven't done the hurricane experience for a long time," he said. "And they forget."

A lone angler cast into the spitting rain Sunday from the dock at Caxambas Pass Park on Marco Island.

"I'm the only one here," said Rose Killoran, 60, visiting from Chicago. "I'm the only crazy person."

She arrived at the dock about 8:30 a.m., catching redfish and pompano, as the winds picked up and the rain fell harder.

Killoran said she wasn't in a rush to head for cover.

She has to leave Tuesday, and she still has 12 shrimp left for bait.

"I figure this is my last chance," Killoran said.

11 a.m. update

Tropical Storm Isaac is swinging to the west and New Orleans is under a hurricane watch now. But South Florida will still feel its effects.

Power is out in Miami. And flights out of Miami are being cancelled and shelters are open in Collier and Lee counties.

Winds are still be measured at 65 mph and the storm is currently 80 miles from Key West. The storm is moving faster and could pass by Collier County faster than expected.

Winds picked up and the occasional rain drop fell as the first two shelter guests checked into North Collier Regional Park this morning in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac.

Ohio native Thelma Elliott moved into Caribbean Park two months ago. As the 76-year-old faced her first hurricane, she and her 4-year-old Shih tzu Tashi made sure they were first in line at 10 a.m.

"She's really good, she don't bark," Elliot told Collier County Domestic Animal Services staff when she learned Tashi would have to sleep in separate quarters.

"You won't be far from her," said shelter lead Kathelene Drew. "Just a door away, I promise."

Drew said 102 families registered for the shelter along with 138 dogs, 33 cats, two bunnies, two guinea pigs and one parakeet.

Not all will show. Of the 102 phone calls made to preregistered guests, only eight were returned with confirmation.

"There's a false sense of security when I'm driving in and there's a beautiful sun on my left and a rainbow on my right," Drew said. "Right now people are at home drinking their coffee. But when that first deluge of rain happens, that's when they'll come."

Janice Cleare knows about rain. It made its way into her home during Tropical Storm Debbie this summer.

"We got a leaky roof," said Cleare, who along with her son Matt, 17, and their 5-year-old Poodle mix Bronx, showed early for shelter.

The Cleares have been through a few storms in Broward County where they lived until two years ago. After they learned their new roof leaked, they decided to sign up for a shelter.

"I thought, you know, these things are serious," Cleare said.

The shelter will be staffed by about 22 volunteers and five deputies. Drew said their is enough supplies -- including three back-up generators, duct tape, lanterns, dog food, muzzles, collars, leashed and 100 pounds of kitty litter -- to last for 72 hours.

"When folks begin to panic, they forget stuff," Drew said.

Dennis Spaulding thought he and his family could beat Tropical Storm Isaac.

Spaulding, 59, surprised his wife, Lisa, 44, on Thursday with a long weekend trip from their home in Fort Myers to the Marco Beach Resort.

As Isaac got closer to Marco Island, though, the Spauldings were loading up to head home Sunday morning.

Most disappointed with the early departure were their sons, Quinn, 14, Drew, 15, and Sean, 9, who were eager to stick around for some tropical action, Spaulding said.

"You know how they are, they're like, 'It's just getting windy,'" he said.

As the wind picked up along Bonita Beach, Chris Relli tossed a small fish back into the gulf.

Relli, 50, has lived in Southwest Florida all her life and wasn't fazed by the coming storm.

Wearing a purple raincoat with the hood tightened around her face, she threw her fishing line back into the water.

"We take the opportunity to go fishing," she said with a smile.

Relli said she's heard the lowered barometric pressure sends fish into a feeding frenzy. She said she caught her biggest snook here during Hurricane Andrew.

With Isaac's help, she was hoping to catch another.

Bill Bartley walked along Bonita Beach with his son, stopping to walk into the waves.

Bartley, who owns a home in Bonita Springs, flew in Saturday from Minnesota after hearing Isaac was on its way.

"I called my travel agent on Tuesday and I said, 'When can you get me to Fort Myers?'" Bartley, 61, recalled.

He said he came to make sure the house was all right, and to experience his first tropical storm.

"If it was a category 4 or 5 maybe I'd be going the other direction," Bartley said.

Some airlines at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) have announced cancellations due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

Those planning to fly or meet passengers within the next 24 hours are urged to contact their respective airlines for the most up-to-date information on any impact by Tropical Storm Isaac. For airline websites and phone numbers, please visit www.flylcpa.com/airlines.

9 a.m. update

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for Collier and Lee counties until 5 p.m.

8 a.m. update

Isaac is 135 from Key West and is maintaining 65 mph winds and Lee County has issued mandatory evacuation order for Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach.

Florida Gulf Coast University plans to evacuate its dormitories today, according to an email sent to students. Students are being moved to Alico Arena as the residential facilities close for the storm.

Ave Maria University has cancelled all Monday classes due to Tropical Storm Isaac, President Jim Towey said in an email.

University officials on Saturday encouraged students who live within a four-hour driving radius to return home immediately.

The Lee County Emergency Operations Center has ordered a mandatory evacuation for the following areas:

Bonita Beach

Fort Myers Beach

Big & Little Hickory Islands Black Island

Lovers Key

San Carlos Island

The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center is calling for 3 to 5 foot storm surge above ground, posing a danger for people living in those areas.

"It's their prerogative," Sheriff's spokesman Tony Schall said. "They will be staying at their own risk."

In light of the mandatory evacuation order, five hurricane shelters will be opened this morning:

The Red Cross will operate hurricane shelters at Varsity Lakes Middle School and East Lee County High School. Those shelters will open at Noon today.

Lee County will operate hurricane shelters at Island Coast High School, South Fort Myers High School and Dunbar High School. The shelter at South Fort Myers High School will be the only pet friendly shelter. Pets are not allowed at any other public shelters. These shelters will open this morning at 11:00 a.m.

Lee County Health Dept. is also opening a Special-Needs Shelter at Harborside Event Center at 11am.

If Lee County should fall under a Hurricane Warning, more mandatory evacuations will be ordered.

On Key West, locals followed time-worn storm preparedness rituals while awaiting the storm after Isaac swamped the Caribbean and shuffled plans for the Republican National Convention. Forecasters said the storm was expected to reach the archipelago later Sunday or Sunday night at or near hurricane strength.

"Currently Isaac is a tropical storm that's expected to become a hurricane as it reaches Key West ... then it will move into the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to strengthen" further, said Meteorologist Jessica Schauer with the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

"Our forecast is that as the system moves northward it is forecast to strengthen to a Category 2," she said, adding an ultimate landfall is possible on the northern Gulf Coast late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

"Definitely the northern Gulf Coast should be preparing for a hurricane right now," she added, speaking with The Associated Press by telephone.

A Category 2 hurricane is capable of top sustained winds of 96-100 mph (154-177 kph). Schauer cautioned that Isaac also poses a threat of destructive storm surges though she noted forecasts extending out as far as Tuesday or Wednesday are subject to greater uncertainty.

5 a.m. update

Issac is still a tropical storm but is gaining strength. Winds are reaching 60 mph and forecasters say that it could become a hurricane as it approaches Key West.

The track has moved more to the west and all of the computer models have Southwest Florida out of the cone of uncertainity/ .

Collier County is already experiencing rain bands from Isaac.

As of 5 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 205 miles (330 kms) east-southeast of Key West, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Isaac had strengthened in recent hours, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) as it gained strength over open water.

The center said a hurricane hunter plane found the top sustained winds had increased from about 60 mph (95 kph) just hous earlier.

The hurricane center said the storm, which was swirling off the northern coast of Cuba overnight, was expected to move near or over the Florida Keys later in the day or Sunday night. Isaac was then forecast to move over the southeast Gulf of Mexico on Monday. It was moving to the northwest toward the Keys at 18 mph (30 kph).

Forecasters said some more strengthening was expected over the next 48 hours with Isaac set to be at or near hurricane strength upon reaching the Keys. Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 205 miles (335 kph) from the center, giving Isaac a broad sweep as it passed.

POSTED EARLIER

Emergency shelters will open in Collier and Lee counties Sunday morning as a precaution ahead of the expected development of Tropical Storm Isaac into a hurricane that could strafe Southwest Florida beginning late Sunday and Monday.

Gov. Rick Scott of Naples signed an executive order Saturday that placed Florida in a statewide state of emergency; Collier County and city of Bonita Springs officials also declared states of emergency and alerted residents to shelter openings.

Collier and Lee schools, including classes and activities, are canceled Monday.

Several areas were alerted to voluntary evacuations Saturday. In Collier, people living in areas west and south of U.S. 41 and the adjacent low-lying areas, as well as mobile and modular home residents in the unincorporated areas of Collier County, were encouraged to seek other shelter as a precaution.

Marco Island police called for a voluntary evacuation of island residents on Saturday; that alert didn't immediately rise to the level of a mandatory evacuation.

"This storm will cause flooding along the coast, especially the south-facing beaches," said John Patrick, chief meteorologist for ABC-7 News. "The latest forecast guidance suggests that as the storm makes its closest pass, Monday between 6 a.m. and noon, the heaviest rain may fall at the beaches. Expect 5 to 10 inches of rain out of this storm, with lesser amounts inland. I could see 3 to 6 inches of rain inland out of this."

Five Collier schools will become shelters as of 10 a.m. Sunday: Cypress Palm Middle School, Golden Gate High School, Immokalee Middle School, Immokalee High School and Palmetto Ridge High School.

A pet-friendly shelter will open at North Collier Regional Park for those residents who registered.

Additional measures in Lee and Collier counties ahead of the expected storm include:

Lee shelters will open as needed. If activated, South Fort Myers High School will be the county's pet shelter. Harborside Convention Center in Fort Myers will open at 11 a.m. Sunday for special needs patients. Two additional shelters may be identified by emergency officials and the American Red Cross.

Edison State College and Florida Gulf Coast University are closed through Monday.

All Collier County parks, including Sun-N-Fun Lagoon and all pools, are closed Sunday, as are all county libraries, including library headquarters.

Cape Air and Silver Airways, which is operating as United Express, canceled all flights from Southwest Florida International Airport to Key West beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday. They aren't expected to resume service until Tuesday, said Vicki Moreland, airport spokeswoman. Other airlines aren't expected to make decisions about service until Sunday, Moreland said.

Travelers with flights today or Monday should check with their carrier before arriving at the airport, she said.

There will be no trash, recycling, yard waste or bulky item collection in Collier County on Monday. Residents should store collection containers inside. For information on trash-recycling collection, call 239-252-2380.

Around Collier County on Saturday, tarps were secured to storefronts, windows were shuttered and vessels were tied firmly down. Here are some of those scenes:

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Tim House, of Naples, secures his 40-foot boat, Broad Reach, before the arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac, at the Naples City Dock on Saturday Aug. 25, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Tim House, of Naples, secures his 40-foot boat, Broad Reach, before the arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac, at the Naples City Dock on Saturday Aug. 25, 2012.

Naples City Dock

George Harris sipped a Miller Lite and flew a U.S. Army flag as he worked to secure his boat, At Ease, at the Naples City Dock.

He's owned At Ease for about seven years. It's made it through every storm since.

"It's a good, strong boat," Harris said. "Real sturdy."

At the next slip over, a boat's stereo cranked Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" as Tim House and his terrier, Quincy, doubled up the lines.

"I'm preparing maybe a little less than I would if it were a stronger storm," he said.

Where do you put 61 luxury cars?

Fast cars moved very slowly at an East Naples luxury sports car dealership.

Chris Pruett, a salesman at Naples Motorsports, directed staff as they drove Bentleys, Ferraris and Maseratis into the showroom from outside, squeaking over rubber flooring as they were parked — hubcaps nearly kissing — in tight rows inside the dealership.

In all, the majority of the 61 vehicles ranging from $150,000 to $450,000 that needed to be sheltered ended up in the showroom, where couches were piled onto each other to make room for cars. Employees stored others in the adjacent body shop.

"It's definitely some work," Pruett said.

Naples Zoo

Employees at the Naples Zoo began filling up water tubs, securing loose items and getting ready to move the animals.

If a storm comes over Collier, most zoo animals will be waiting inside in secured buildings made of concrete block and reinforced steel, zoo spokesman Tim Tetzlaff said.

More anxious animals, like zebras, will ride out the storm in their everyday housing.

"They live through cyclones in their natural environment. We have not lost one of those animals" in any Naples-area hurricane, Tetzlaff said. "Animals have a remarkable way of protecting themselves pretty well."

The zoo is closed today and Monday in anticipation of Isaac. Staff will evaluate Tuesday when the zoo will reopen.

Naples Municipal Airport

Staff at the Naples Airport Authority went on full alert Wednesday, issuing what they like to call a DUM, or declaration of urgent matters. They don't like to use the word "emergency," airport executive director Ted Soliday said.

Most planes stored at the airport had flown off by Saturday; the remaining few were towed away and put in hangars. Soliday said he expected some owners would be at the airport today to move their planes.

"People wait until the last minute," he joked. "We started calling people Tuesday. Some people don't watch the news or read the paper; they get the news late in the game."

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Comments » 2

MarcoFisherman writes:

^^ another insightful comment from good 'ole Klaus^^

RayPray writes:

The storm was heading for Tampa.

But Robot Romney managed to outsource it to merry Chocolate City New Orleans.

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