As Isaac moves into warm water, threat shifts to northern Gulf

(National Weather Service)

Heavy rain and strong wind from Tropical Storm Isaac pounded parts of south Florida on Sunday, but the threat to the state lessened as forecasters said the storm would move west of its originally predicted path.

Isaac, which should strengthen into a hurricane in the next day or two, is expected now to strike further west, anywhere between Florida and Louisiana. The entire area from east of Morgan City, Louisiana, to Destin on the Florida Panhandle was under a hurricane warning.

It appeared the storm would mostly bypass Florida's west coast and the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where the schedule was pushed back a day by organizers.

"The best thing to do in a storm like this is get out of its way," said Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who urged residents to prepare for the worst.

He, along the governors of Louisiana and Alabama declared states of emergency to help cope with the storm, which could make landfall near or on the August 29 seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

CNN iReporter Frank Guida, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said water gushed through the doors and flooded the lobby of his building. The rain came in waves, every half hour or so. He sent video shot from the 18th floor, showing low visibility amid stormy skies and heavy rain.

"As I look out the window now, I can see that the wind is more unified and it is more intense," he said. "You can see everything is moving in the same direction, like the palm trees and the shrubs. I can hear shutters shaking."

As of 11 p.m. ET Sunday, Isaac was about 75 miles west-southwest of Key West, Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. Packing winds of 65 miles per hour, it was moving west-northwest at 14 mph.

A day after slamming Haiti, where at least six deaths were reported, Isaac slowed a little while passing through the Straits of Florida and lashing Cuba and the Florida Keys. The storm was expected to gain strength as it moves through the warm Gulf waters.

By late Monday afternoon or early evening, Isaac's eye is forecast to be well west of Tampa. It is expected to make landfall late Tuesday or Wednesday -- Katrina's anniversary. By then it could be a Category 2 hurricane with winds of at least 96 mph.

"We are just on high alert. I know the anxiety level is high," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "The storm is somewhat uncertain. Out of an abundance of caution we will begin to take these precautions as quickly as we can."

He said neither the airport, convention center nor Superdome would be shelters of last resort as they were in 2005.

"We are much, much better prepared structurally than before," he said, adding, "If you are called upon, you should leave."

CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said there are so far some eerie similarities between Hurricane Katrina and Isaac.

The forecasts for the two storms were almost identical. "We hope that is where the comparisons end," he said.

"Hurricane Katrina went on to become a dangerous Category 5 hurricane in the central Gulf of Mexico," said Hennen. "Isaac is forecast to become a Category 2, 100 mph hurricane before it hits the Gulf Coast ... seven years to the date of Katrina's landfall."

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called for voluntary evacuations in 15 parishes. A mandatory evacuation was ordered for St. Charles Parish and for the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.

Officials in Plaquemines Parish declared a state of emergency and began preparing for the storm by bolstering levees and adding additional flood protection devices to low-lying highway areas.

In Alabama, officials ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said some areas in his state had no power.