Thousands of people have been evacuated from New Orleans as Hurricane Isaac makes its slow approach.
Hurricane Isaac will hit the Louisiana city exactly seven years after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but it is a much less powerful storm.
New Orleans has closed its new floodgates in a bid to protect it from the effects of high waters brought by sustained winds of up to 80 mph (130 km/h).
Isaac killed at least 24 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
It has also caused significant flooding and damage across the Caribbean and forced a day’s delay to the start of the Republican party’s congress in Tampa, Florida.
Hurricane Isaac will hit Louisiana exactly seven years after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but it is a much less powerful storm
At 02:00 local time the Category One hurricane was almost stationery about 70 miles (110 km) south of New Orleans, according to the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC).
Tens of thousands of people have been told to leave their homes in low-lying areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, though a mass evacuation has not been ordered. Storm warnings are also in place in parts of Florida, Texas and Alabama.
Officials say Isaac is likely to weaken before it reaches New Orleans.
“We don’t expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category One storm that can kill you,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Of particular concern are storm surges, with peaks of up to 3.7 m (12ft) forecast in parts of Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana. Rainfalls of up to 50 cm (20 inches) are forecast across wide areas, along with a high chance of isolated tornadoes along the coast.
The bowl-shaped city of New Orleans is particularly vulnerable to storms, with the centre of the city the furthest below sea-level.
But Mitch Landrieu said that the 8m-high levee gate which now protects the areas of the city that were badly flooded in 2005 had been closed since Tuesday morning.
Many residents of New Orleans have chosen to secure their homes but stay put, saying they were not too concerned by Isaac.
“I feel safe,” said Pamela Young from her home in the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood devastated by Katrina.
“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.”
“If the wind isn’t too rough, I can stay right here. If the water comes up, I can go upstairs.”
Nazareth Joseph, who works at a hotel in French Quarter and was in the city during Katrina, said he had a busy week ahead so would stay where he was.
“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 told the Associated Press news agency.
By Tuesday night, more than 58,000 homes in New Orleans were reported to have lost power. Outages have also been reported across Louisiana and Mississippi, affecting more than 200,000 homes and business.
President Barack Obama has declared an emergency in Louisiana and Mississippi, allowing federal funds to be released to local authorities.
Speaking from the White House, he warned residents along the Gulf Coast to heed warnings, including those to evacuate, saying: “Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously.”
Shortly before Isaac reached hurricane status on Tuesday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said the emergency declaration fell short of the federal help he had asked for.
An unprecedented cluster of tornadoes ripped through major towns and cities in Texas yesterday leaving thousands of homes reduced to rubble and more than a dozen people injured.
The powerful storm swept trucks across the skies and base-ball sized hail stones punched holes in the roofs of cars and homes.
Meteorologists said it was the first time two “extremely dangerous” tornadoes hit two large metropolitan areas at the same time. Arlington and Lancaster were worst hit with both areas being declared “disaster zones”, while damage was reported in at least nine cities in five counties.
“I have never seen two tornadoes hit two large metropolitan areas at the same time before,”AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity said, reports Newsroom America.
Weather service advisories issued yesterday said storm spotters and radar revealed separate tornadoes south of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Brandy Kemps filmed one of the tornadoes from work in north Texas, she told ABC News: “Debris was flying right in front of me in the air – shingles, dirt, tree limbs. The tornado funnel was coming right at us, then went directly behind the apartment building I was in and then made a right toward 45 North.”
One tornado tore through the Flying J Truck Plaza in Dallas, grabbing two trailer trucks and tossing them, said truck driver Michael Glennon, who caught the destruction on his video camera as debris swirled through the air.
In Sunnyvale, Heather Montoya said the dark funnel shook her entire home and left uprooted trees inside and her furniture scattered all over her property.
“It was insane. We have a lot of windows in our house. The whole house started shaking and in five seconds it was completely done,” she told ABC’s Dallas affiliate WFAA.
An unprecedented cluster of tornadoes ripped through major towns and cities in Texas yesterday
A grandmother in Diamond Creeks, Forney, where 20 to 30 homes were severely damaged, sought refuge in a bath-tub with her grandchildren as the walls of her home collapsed. The woman was forced to hold on to her 18-month-old grandson’s legs as the powerful winds almost swept him away, the toddler suffered minor injuries.
Most of Dallas was spared the full wrath of the storm. Yet in Lancaster, where around 300 homes were destroyed, television helicopters panned over exposed homes without roofs and flattened buildings. Broken sheets of plywood blanketed lawns and covered rooftops.
A pastor at one Lancaster church saw debris swirling in the wind, then herded more than 30 children, some as young as newborns, into a windowless room to ride out the storm. Nearby at the church’s school, about 60 more children hid in another windowless room near the women’s bathroom.
An entire wall of Cedar Valley Christian Academy wound up being taken out in the storm. Pastor Glenn Young said he didn’t know when the school might re-open.
“I’m a little concerned,” Glenn Young said.
“This is our livelihood.”
Residents could be seen walking down the street with firefighters and peering into homes, looking at the damage after the storm passed.
Devlin Norwood said he was at his Lancaster home when he heard the storm sirens. He said he made a quick trip to a nearby store when he saw the funnel-shaped tornado lower, kick up debris and head toward his neighborhood.
Officer Paul Beck said 10 people were injured in the suburb. He says two of those injuries are severe but did not have further details.
Assistant Arlington fire chief Jim Self says three people suffered minor injuries there, including two residents of a nursing home who were taken to a hospital after swirling winds clipped the building. Around 50 homes were damaged in the area.
“Of course the windows were flying out, and my sister is paralyzed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room,” said Joy Johnston, who was visiting her 79-year-old sister at the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
“It was terribly loud.”
At the nearby Omni Mandalay Las Colinas hotel, tornado sirens sounded, alerting guests to get to safety.
“The hotel has not been evacuated but we do have guests under cover,” said a telephone receptionist at 421-room hotel. The storm is believed to have leveled several homes, and tens of thousands of others are without power.
National Weather Service meteorologist Amber Elliott confirmed two separate tornadoes had touched down, one in Arlington, Texas and another in Dallas. Nine separate tornado warnings have been issued by the weather service for the Dallas area so far on Tuesday, she said.
Hail ranging from pea-sized to as large as baseballs pounded Dallas and Fort Worth, the nation’s fourth-most-populous metropolitan area with 6.3 million people.
Multiple news outlets reported homes with their roofs violently torn off.
In Arlington, NBC DFW reporter Mola Lenghi told the network: “There’s lots of 18-wheelers. I’ve never seen this before.”