President Barack Obama encouraged gulf coast residents to prepare, and listen to, and take the warnings of authorities seriously, as the tropical storm Isaac nears hurricane strength. The National Hurricane Center expects tropical storm Isaac to make a landfall as a hurricane category 1 on Tuesday night.

Storm Isaac

Forecasters said the storm is moving slowly and expects heavy rains of up to 14 inches and 20 inches, in isolated areas. The hurricane center warned the storm could be disastrous and said,

“Now is the time to rush to completion preparations for the protection of life and property. Evacuate if directed to do so by local officials, or if your home is vulnerable to high winds or flooding.”  Isaac is expected to hit the Mississippi and the Louisiana coasts.

In a statement, Pres. Obama said, “As we prepare for Isaac to hit, I want to encourage local residents of the Gulf Coast to listen to your local officials and follow their directions, including if they tell you to evacuate. We’re dealing with a big storm, and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area. Now’s not the time to tempt fate. Now’s not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously.”

According to the Pres. Obama, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has teams on the ground preparing for potential damage, and he signed the Louisiana disaster declaration to provide additional resources to the state from the federal government. He also said supplies and response teams were sent to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Residents in the low-lying areas in the four states were advised evacuate ahead of the storm.

Alabama Emergency Management director, Art Faulner, warned residents in the Mobile area, that the storm could bring strong winds and high water. According to him, “It is a very large storm and oftentimes we confuse and focus on a specific dot that may be identified as the center of the storm, when very dangerous conditions may exist as far as 200 miles from that specific dot.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said they have a plan in place to secure the city, and to respond quickly in case of emergencies. He is confident of the city’s capability to handle a devastating storm based on their experiences and work during the previous years. According to him, the city spent $10 billion in levee improvements since Hurricane Katrina, and they are “battle-ready.”

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said the state did everything in their capacity to prepare for the storm. Officials in the state distributed 10,000 sand bags, and dispatched 1,500 troops from the National Guard in three counties in the southern part of the state to assist in the emergency preparations.

A report from Reuters said the United States poultry producers in the South, such as Sanderson Farms, Inc. (NASDAQ:SAFM) and Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE:TSN), both affected by Hurricane Katrina, have been preparing for the storm. Plant managers in both companies made sure they have enough supplies, such as fuel, and their generators are working to continue the operations of their poultry processing plants.

Energy companies in Louisiana, including Marathon Petroleum Corp (NYSE:MPC), Exxon Mobil  Corporation(NYSE:XOM), and Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX) shutdown their oil refineries, or reduced their oil and natural gas production rates as a precaution. Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) continues to produce 330,000 bpd in its plant at Pascagoula, but closed some of its off shore oil and gas productions. Since last week, BP PLC (NYSE:BP) reduced its offshore and natural gas operations.