STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
People naturally focus on New Orleans, a great American city that is below sea level in many places, but you cannot understand the full effect of the storm without moving along the Gulf Coast. Mississippi, for example, has faced high water, tropical storm-force winds and pounding rain. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.
(SOUNDBITE OF WIND AND SURF)
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: As Isaac moves ashore near the mouth of Mississippi River in neighboring Louisiana, outer bands of the hurricane swept into Gulfport, Mississippi.
JUDY MOORE: Oh, here's come the wind.
ELLIOTT: Judy and George Moore watch from the wide front porch of their home just a block from the churned-up waters of the Mississippi Sound.
GEORGE MOORE: We're listening to the wind and...
MOORE: And listening. We got...
MOORE: ...the water.
MOORE: We figure, we got concrete siding now, we got metal roof, we got hurricane windows, hurricane shutters, so we think we'd be all right - a lot better than the one before.
ELLIOTT: The one before meaning Katrina. Seven years ago today, their house was washed away.
MOORE: On the same day. Is that weird? That is so weird.
ELLIOTT: The house is elevated now, and better able to withstand both the storm surge and the intermittent downpours.
MOORE: You don't mess with water, especially in a hurricane.
ELLIOTT: And that's the message that government officials have been trying to get across for the past few days. But in some ways, the memory of Katrina makes it harder for a much weaker hurricane like Isaac to garner that same sense of urgency. That's been a worry for Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
CRAIG FUGATE: Well, you know, I'm from Florida, so I'm used to it. People have gone through worse hurricanes. They go, well, this is no Katrina. We agree, but you got to understand that sometimes it isn't always the wind speed that's the greatest danger. Sometimes it can be those heavy rains.
ELLIOTT: Fugate, in Mississippi to help stage supplies as part of the federal response, says Isaac's landfall is by no means the end of the crisis.
FUGATE: You've got to understand, this storm's going to move slow, and the risk is a lot of rain. So people that live inland may be thinking, well, this is something going to hit the coast, and because it's only a Category 1 hurricane, it won't be that bad. It's moving so slow that the Hurricane Center and the weather service are very concerned about very heavy rainfall well up into Mississippi and parts of Louisiana, even Alabama.
ELLIOTT: He says people as far north as the capital in Jackson, 160 miles inland, should brace for flooding. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Gulfport, Mississippi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.