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Hurricane Isaac hits Louisiana

Hurricane Isaac is set to arrive in New Orleans seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina.

A couple board up their home before Hurricane Isaac, which still bears a marking from Hurricane Katrina, on August 28, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Picture: AFP.

NEW ORLEANS - Hurricane Isaac lashed southern Louisiana with high winds and heavy rains on Wednesday and was set for a late-morning arrival in New Orleans, seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Isaac is the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States this season.

While not nearly as strong as Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it slammed the Crescent City on August 29, 2005, category 1 Isaac is still a powerful reminder of New Orleans' vulnerability.

The hurricane will be the first test for multibillion-dollar flood defences built after levees failed under Katrina's storm surge, leaving large parts of low-lying New Orleans swamped.

The National Hurricane Centre warned late on Tuesday that Isaac and its 130km/h winds were producing dangerous storm surges, and that flooding from heavy rains was expected.

Isaac will also test the resolve of officials and the preparedness of a city and region where some 1,800 died in the 2005 hurricane, the costliest natural disaster in US history.

Officials from the mayor of New Orleans to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, to US President Barack Obama, have scrambled to get ahead of the storm's impact, mindful of the chaos and botched relief efforts in the wake of Katrina.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu assured residents that this time around, "your city is secure," and said emergency services were ready for search and rescue missions.

"We're in the heart of this fight," Landrieu told a news conference. "We are in the hunker-down phase."

About 1,000 US National Guard troops in military vehicles took up positions in the mostly deserted streets of New Orleans, brandishing assault rifles to maintain order.

Police cars patrolled darkened streets with blue lights flashing.

Obama urged residents to take heed warnings and take cover, saying that now was "not the time to tempt fate." He issued emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi earlier this week.

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