MIAMI (CBSNEWS) - The center of Tropical Storm Isaac's projected path took it directly toward New Orleans for a projected landfall as early as Tuesday night, nearly seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
At 8 p.m. Monday, the National Hurricane Center reported that Isaac's top sustained winds had remained at 70 mph for several hours, up from about 65 mph the evening before. A tropical system becomes a Category 1 hurricane once winds reach 74 mph. CBS News consultant David Bernard reports the storm is predicted to run right over New Orleans, and its maximum sustained winds could be up to 100 mph by the time it makes landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Its center was about 230 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, and it was moving northwest at 10 mph.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Morgan City, La., to the Alabama-Florida line -- an area covering 5 million people. East of the state line to Destin, Fla., hurricane forecasters have now posted a tropical storm warning.
Rain and storm surge is considered a major threat, especially if the storm's movement continues to slow down. A lot of the lower Mississippi River Valley along the Gulf Coast could see eight to 12 inches of rain. It's not out of the question that some spots could see up to 20 inches of rain. Additionally, coastal flooding will be a problem from both rain and storm surge.
President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana as that state prepares for Isaac.
The White House said Obama informed Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal of the emergency declaration in a phone call Monday. The declaration makes federal funding available for emergency activities related to the storm. Obama also spoke with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Obama has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts with state and local officials along the Gulf Coast.
Forecasters predict Isaac will intensify into a Category 1 hurricane later Monday or Tuesday. Isaac could become the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since 2008.