New Orleans (CNN) - Tropical Storm Isaac is close to becoming a hurricane and is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 storm Tuesday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
It is forecast to hit near the southwest pass of the Mississippi River and move slowly across the region, pounding a large swath of the Gulf Coast with heavy rain and gashing winds.
Residents in New Orleans are obviously watching the weather closely, even folks outside of the Gulf Coast certainly, hoping that improvements to the levee system since hurricane Katrina are going to hold.
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning, saying that the state is fairly comfortable it will handle what Isaac brings.
"I want to thank the people for the United States for the tremendous investments they have made along with us for one of the finest levee systems in the world," Landrieu says. "We invested $14.5 billion...to protect us from a category 2 or 3. We believe this will be a 1. But it's not just the storm surge that I want people to really understand. It's the internal drainage that's so important from this area."
Landrieu explains there are 78 water pumps in a four-parish area that have been improved and upgraded since Katrina. Landrieu says the system near the surge barrier can pump an Olympic sized swimming pool in four seconds.
"Katrina brought such a storm surge that people think of hurricanes as only a storm surge situation. But you can have a hurricane like this, which is not very powerful, but it is large, dump a tremendous amount of water, whether it's on Louisiana or Carolina or parts of Florida, and do tremendous devastation, because you've got to have that internal drainage system. That's why since hurricane Betsy, we've been fighting for full funding for SELA, the Southeastern Louisiana Flood Control Protection. And unfortunately, we're less than halfway through that. So it's not just levees. It's not jump storm surge. It's pumping capacity which is important," Landrieu says.
Landrieu also says FEMA has been in good contact with the state in advance of Isaac.
"It's a completely new FEMA, completely new Homeland Security Department that exists now. The FEMA that we have now is smarter, it's stronger, and it's more cooperative," she says. "They have been contacting local elected officials literally for days. The president himself had a conversation with the governor, the mayor of New Orleans and the local officials just yesterday. So everyone is leaning forward and prepared for what we hope will not be serious, but you never know with these kinds of storms."