Having just been upgraded to hurricane status and about six hours from hitting Louisiana’s coast, Isaac has chased over 500 evacuees seeking shelter to the LSU AgCenter’s Dean Lee Research Station in Alexandria.

“We’re hoping not to get slammed too hard,” says Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter regional director, as an 18-wheeler of emergency food is unloaded behind him. “We’ve had a lot more rain than we’ve come to expect in recent years. August has been very wet here. We don’t need any more from Isaac.

“We’re under a state evacuation and the (Dean Lee Research) station is involved. Our facilities are used to house evacuees – about 3,000 people can be accommodated.”

Asked about the Corps of Engineers preparation for Hurricane Isaac, spokesman Rene Poche, said, “Since Hurricane Katrina, we’ve had the commitment of two administrations from both parties and Congress provide $14.6 billion to build a hurricane storm risk reduction system (to protect New Orleans). To date, a bit over $11 billion has been spent on the system, which is 95 to 98 percent complete. Some small areas still need some work.

“The city is better prepared and the system will perform as it’s been designed to.”

Isaac and Mid-South crops - updates

In the southwest part of the state, near Crowley, Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, “was just outside and the wind is beginning to pick up. But otherwise, it’s a nice day, so far. In fact, the breeze feels pretty good.

“Of course, that could change quickly. Usually when we have a hurricane come in, we get around 10 inches of rain.”

The big concern, says Saichuk, “is for the growers up in northeast Louisiana and along the (Mississippi) River. If it rains like expected crops will be knocked down.

“Farmers are harvesting full speed ahead – beans, rice or corn. Most of the corn is out of the field but they’re sure hustling to bring in the beans and rice ahead of the storm.”