Anxiety is high in New Orleans as the city braces for Tropical Storm Isaac exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina, but officials believe the city will be spared the brunt of the storm.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Craig Fugate urged storm watchers to focus on other areas that face the prospect of more damage, like Alabama and Mississippi, instead of New Orleans.
"I know that Katrina is first and foremost on everybody's mind because the anniversary is coming up... but I think people need to understand this is not a New Orleans storm. This is a Gulf Coast storm," Fugate said.
Fugate said he was confident that New Orleans is prepared for Isaac with numerous safety precautions in place and improved levees after a multi-billion dollar effort to rebuild and strengthen the system post-Katrina.
"It's a much more robust system than what it was when Katrina came ashore," he said.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, a flawed levee system failed, causing flooding that caused mass devastation. About 1,800 people were killed and 80 percent of the city was destroyed.
This time, officials insist the city is ready.
"I feel the anxiety," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a news conference on Sunday. "All of us, you can kind of feel it and you think, 'Oh my goodness. Could this possibly happen again?' The answer is, of course it can. Is it likely that it's going to happen again? Who knows? That's not the point. It's absolutely true that we are better prepared."
"All pumps are operational," he said of the levees. "We are well prepared to go."
New Orleans has not put mandatory evacuations in place, but some surrounding parishes have urged people to leave. About 53,000 residents of St. Charles Parish outside of New Orleans were told to leave before the storm.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency in the state, and Landrieu said that "now is the time" for residents to prepare for the storm. He urged people to pick up medicine prescriptions, batteries and bottled water. He said residents should clear gutters and storm drains, move cars to designated areas of higher land and board up windows.
"The timing of this storm coming on--as fate would have it, the anniversary of Katrina--has everyone in a [heightened] sense of alertness and that is a good thing," Landrieu said. "It's important to be on high alert. It's also important to just stay prepared because of the uncertainty of this storm."
The storm is expected to cross New Orleans late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning as a Category 1 hurricane.
Landrieu stressed that the airport, Superdome and convention center in New Orleans would not serve as emergency shelters like they did during Hurricane Katrina.
The Gulf Coast has not been hit since 2008 when hurricanes Dolly, Ike and Gustav all struck.
"We are much, much better prepared structurally than we were before and I do think that we have been through a number of other very difficult instances so I think the citizens are much more prepared and much more sophisticated," Landrieu siad. "But, at the end of the day, what it has to equal is when the sound goes off everybody has to know where they're going and what they're doing and this time we're much better at knowing what that is."
"The best part of wisdom is to prepare for the worst and to hope for the best," Landrieu said.