Tropical Storm Isaac morphed into a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph as it neared the Gulf of Mexico's northern coastline Tuesday.
The anticipated path of the storm may be felt in the Mid-Ohio Valley over the coming weekend.
"This is a very large tropical cyclone that's caused 6 to 12 feet of storm surge as it approached the coast, and we could expect to see some rain in the Ohio Valley area from this storm on Saturday and Sunday," said meteorologist Tim Schott with the National Weather Service tropical storm center in Silver Spring, Md.
The Associated Press
People walk in the storm surge from Isaac, on Lakeshore Drive along Lake Pontchartrain, as the storm approaches landfall, in New Orleans, Tuesday. The storm was arriving at the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Louisiana and Mississippi when it struck on Aug. 29, 2005.
He said it was still a little early on Tuesday to tell the exact path Isaac would take when it made landfall, but such storms can carry copious amounts of rainfall into areas that are far inland.
"The greatest loss of life from Hurricane Irene occurred in the inland areas of New York last year," Schott noted. "So people should keep an eye on this storm and follow reports from their local weather service offices over the next several days."
Rain would not be good news for this weekend's Washington County Fair, which was all but washed out last year due to heavy precipitation.
on the way
Tropical Storm Isaac was elevated to hurricane status Tuesday with winds topping 75 mph.
The storm is expected to move north over the next several days and could bring weekend rains into the Ohio Valley.
Gasoline prices are expected to increase in advance of the storm. Locally regular unleaded gas topped $3.95 a gallon Tuesday, up from $3.79 on Monday.
Sources: National Weather Service and Times research.
"We've been watching Isaac and the whole fair board is hoping and praying that the storm will change direction or break apart before it reaches this area," said Jeremy Barth, one of the fair board directors.
He said on Tuesday The Weather Channel was only predicting possible scattered showers over the weekend.
"But we'll just have to wait and see what happens," Barth added. "The first day of the fair last year was extremely hot, but then started raining. We don't want to see any more of that. A sprinkle here and there wouldn't be a problem."
The Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross isn't sending anyone to assist with disaster relief along the Gulf coast, but executive director Sheri Schwartz said the Columbus center sent some volunteers to the Tampa, Fla., area last weekend.
"They opened shelters due to the rains and potential flooding in that area," she said. "(On Tuesday) the volunteers in Florida are expected to be moving into Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi."
American Electric Power-Ohio is sending manpower to assist with anticipated damage from Hurricane Isaac, according to AEP spokesman Jeff Rennie.
"We've sent 74 company line employees and 85 contract line employees, as well as 10 supervisory and support personnel," he said. "We also sent 109 tree workers over the weekend."
Rennie said the crews arrived in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, but have now been released to other areas of the south, including Shreveport, La., where they'll be assisting AEP affiliate SWEPCo (Southwest Electric Power Company) in storm recovery efforts.
"Other companies helped us after the June 29 storm, and now we can help them," he said.
Hurricane Isaac is also being blamed for higher gasoline prices in the local area.
Marietta resident Betty Bargeloh was already filling her vehicle's tank at the Speedway station on Seventh Street Tuesday when she noticed the price had jumped to $3.95 a gallon.
"It's a lot to pay for gas," she said. "We were recently in North Carolina and South Carolina and paid around $3.40 to $3.60 for a gallon of gas. This is horrible, but other than just staying at home, what can you do? We do try to conserve by making fewer trips around town."
Although two of Marietta's Speedway stores were charging $3.95 a gallon Tuesday, the price at several other Marietta stations remained at $3.79 per gallon.
That may not last, according to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.
He said fuel prices per gallon across Ohio were spiking at $3.95 Tuesday morning, and the Buckeye State was not alone.
"It's up to $3.99 in Indiana, and $4.09 in Michigan," DeHaan said, but added that the increases may not last long.
"The storm has been a bit weaker than expected. A lot will depend on what happens in the next 48 to 72 hours," he said Tuesday. "But earlier today wholesale prices were actually down."
The price got a boost after midday when forecasters said Isaac had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported benchmark oil rose 69 cents to $96.16 per barrel in New York as traders waited to see how much - and for how long - the storm's powerful winds and driving rains would affect oil production and refinery operations in the region.
AP reported nearly 80 percent of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, or 1.1 million barrels per day, has been halted. At least 1 million barrels per day of refining capacity is expected to be shut down, which is about half the refining capacity in the storm's predicted path.