The National Weather Service said Isaac is sustaining winds near 70 mph, but will certainly exceed the 74 mph hurricane class threshold. "Isaac is expected to become a hurricane later on Tuesday and continue to strengthen until the center moves inland," the National Weather Service announced.
Hurricane Katrina, which killed over a thousand people and caused billions of dollars in damage, was a Category 5, the highest classification a storm can have in the Saffir-Simpson scale. It sustained winds of 156.5 mph.
Obama's declaration means federal resources are available to assist the state of Louisiana. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will now work with state and local officials to provide disaster relief.
The White House said "forecasters with the National Weather Center are tracking the path of the storm, while federal disaster response teams are already in place throughout the Gulf region, coordinating with state response centers.
Obama gave a short statement on approaching Tropical Storm Issac earlier today.
Louisiana Gov. Jindal, who requested the emergency declaration, was not entirely pleased with the federal government's response. In a public letter to the White House he said:
"We appreciate your response to our request and your approval. However, the State’s original request for federal assistance ... included a request for reimbursement for all emergency protective measures. The federal declaration of emergency only provides for direct federal assistance."
Jindal added in the letter:
"The State’s expenditures for emergency protective measures are already approximately $8,000,000 and exceed the State of Louisiana’s threshold when making a request for a major disaster declaration."
Since Katrina, Louisiana has bolstered itself with a new, $14.5 billion flood control system.
"There is nothing this storm can bring us that we do not believe we're prepared to handle," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said on Monday. "I believe that everything is going to be OK."
It's important to understand that while Louisiana's traumatic past garners it considerable attention, people in others states also face considerable risk. FEMA chief Craig Fugate said, "This is not a New Orleans storm. This is a Gulf Coast storm. Some of the heaviest impact may be in Alabama and Mississippi."