Lower Ninth Ward, still scarred from Hurricane Katrina, braces for Isaac

(CBS News) New Orleans has a brand new 133-mile system of levees and, as Isaac prepares to make landfall in the next 24 hours, few communities will rely on the new levee system more than the people in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Isaac on verge of becoming hurricane

In New Orleans, where so much was destroyed by Katrina, one observer says people are "methodical and diligent" as they get ready for Isaac, which is expected to make landfall on the seventh anniversary of devastating Hurricane Katrina.

Darren McKinney, 46, was born and raised in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. He was in New Orleans seven years ago when Katrina devastated his neighborhood. Homes and friends were lost. But McKinney says Isaac is no Katrina, so he's staying.

McKinney said, "I ain't gonna leave. If it would have gotten to a Category 3, and up, yeah, then I'm gonna leave."

Some homes in the Lower Ninth Ward still bare the marks of recovery teams in 2005. There are scars - and signs of improvements, including the $14.6 billion upgrade to the city's levee system.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the 133-mile system of levees and flood walls, surrounded by 24 storm-proofed pumping stations. All of it is designed to withstand the level of a 100-year storm, similar to Katrina - a storm much larger than Isaac.

The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex is designed to protect about a quarter million people along the west bank of New Orleans. Eleven massive, 5,700 horse power engines can pump about nine million gallons of water per hour. Put another way, the pumps could fill up an Olympic-size swimming pool in less than five seconds.

Long gas lines and cancelled airline flights are old and familiar signs of a pending storm. New Orleans' main airport will be closed Tuesday and possibly Wednesday.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu insists the city is ready. When asked about the comfortable and confident stance people have about the storm - and if that's a good place to be - Landrieu said, "I think what they're comfortable and confident in is that given the level of this storm, that the levees can hold and we're not gonna have a Katrina event."

On Monday, authorities were encouraging people who needed to to pack up and leave. The message Tuesday is to hunker down.

Watch this full story in the video above.

  • Byron Pitts

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