Hurricane Isaac has made landfall, slamming into the southeastern coast of Louisiana.
The National Hurricane Center said the powerful storm came ashore late Tuesday, bringing sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour. Forecasters also warned of dangerous storm surges along the northern U.S. Gulf Coast.
Earlier Tuesday, President Barack Obama urged residents to get out of the way, if they can.
"We are dealing with a big storm and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area. Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings," said President Obama.
Earlier, forecasters reported flooding along low-lying areas along the coast. They said some parts of Louisiana could see surges as high as three to four meters.
New Orleans Louisiana Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been preparing his city for a possible direct hit.
''We have dodged a bullet in the sense that this is not a category three storm but a category one; at this strength from 85 to 100 mph winds with 125 mph gusts is plenty big enough to put a big hurt on you if you fall into complacency," said Landrieu.
New Orleans resident Diana Whipple watches waves crash on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches New Orleans, Louisiana, August 28, 2012.
Water floods an area outside the levee system along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain as tropical storm Isaac approaches New Orleans, Louisiana, August 28, 2012.
10-year-olds Joshua Keegan (L) and Ruffin Henry (C) play with Scout in a flooded area outside of the levee system along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain as Hurricane Isaac approaches New Orleans, Louisiana August 28, 2012.
Employees of the Orleans Levee District remove signs from Lake Shore Dr. near the shore of Lake Pontchartrain as tropical storm Isaac approaches New Orleans, August 28, 2012.
A man crosses Canal Street in the wind and rain from Hurricane Isaac, Aug. 29, 2012, in New Orleans.
Shelly Ackel of New Orleans carries an American flag through the French Quarter as Hurricane Isaac approaches New Orleans, Louisiana August 28, 2012.
A man walks by a boarded up business in the French Quarter as business owners prepare for tropical storm Isaac in New Orleans, Louisiana August 27, 2012.
Estanislao Fabian straps Jaden Fabian (L), 1, into her car seat by as her family evacuates their home as Tropical Storm Isaac heads towards the Louisiana coast line in Oakville, Louisiana, August 28, 2012.
Jaden Fabian, 1, cries in her car seat as her family evacuates their home as Tropical Storm Isaac heads towards the Louisiana coast line, August 28, 2012.
Krystal Ledet, back left, looks after her son, Brandon Malbrough as her daughter Alexus Malbrough, left, colors with her grandmother, Melissa Rodrigue, right, after evacuating to a shelter in Houma, La., Aug. 28, 2012.
Workers fill Hesco baskets at a flood wall at Route 23, in advance of Tropical Storm Isaac in Plaquemines Parish, La., Aug. 28, 2012.
Senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart tracks Isaac at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Aug. 28, 2012.
A fisherman takes advantage of the high tide and rising waves to try his hand at fishing from the seawall along Beach Boulevard in Waveland, Miss., as Tropical Storm Isaac's winds begin to hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Aug. 28, 2012.
The sun breaks through the bands of storms as the first real impacts of Isaac reach the beaches of Gulf Shores, Ala. at high tide, where all access to the beach is closed Aug. 28, 2012.
Charlotte Timmons, 63, and Brenda Batey, 60, discuss their concerns about community preparations for Tropical Storm Isaac during their morning walk along the beach in west Gulfport, Miss., Aug. 28, 2012.
A man sleeps outside a boarded up building on Canal St., prior to Tropical Storm Isaac in New Orleans, Aug. 28, 2012.
Stacey Davis, left, and his brother board up windows on their home before Tropical Storm Isaac hits Aug. 28, 2012, in New Orleans.
A boy plays in the surf in waves ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac in Orange Beach, Ala., Aug. 27, 2012.
Forecasters say the slow-moving storm is bringing heavy rains and maximum sustained winds of about 130 kilometers an hour. It could make landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
The president has declared states of emergency for Louisiana and Mississippi. That declaration opens the door for federal funding, almost seven years to the day that Hurricane Katrina slammed into the region, causing massive damage.
VOA correspondent Brian Padden, in New Orleans, says many people already have left.
"I had a chance to drive throughout the city. I have been driving throughout the lower ninth ward. It is basically a ghost town [deserted] right now," said Padden. "Sheltered in their house or have been self-evacuated."
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage
Extremely dangerous winds. Extensive damage
178-208 kilometers/ hour
Devastating damage will occur
209 -251 kilometers/ hour
Catastrophic damage will occur
252 kilometers/hour or higher
New Orleans officials are telling residents to be prepared to live without regular water or power supplies for several days. But not everyone is ready to leave.
Jennifer Landix in the city's Lower 9th Ward is one of those staying put.
"We'll probably get some street flooding from the rain, but you know, heavy winds and stuff, the lights may go out, but we're prepared for all of that. I'm not really in the mood for leaving, let's just put it that way," said Landix.
Experts say the storm could test New Orleans' upgraded flood control and levee systems, which were put in place after Hurricane Katrina left 1,800 people dead in 2005. Wednesday marks Katrina's seventh anniversary.
Isaac battered eastern Cuba Saturday, after killing at least 19 people in Haiti, which is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake. Two people were killed in the Dominican Republic. There were no reports of fatalities in Cuba.
Watch video of approaching Isaac