Isaac could drop 7 inches of rain

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Remnants of Hurricane Isaac will swoop into Indiana from the west and drop as much as 7 inches of rain over five days, providing much-needed relief from the drought in some areas, forecasters said Thursday.
    National Weather Service experts told emergency management officials that the storm’s greatest threat could be small tornadoes. The weather service also said flooding was possible but not certain.
    ‘‘I feel a whole lot better today than I did yesterday,’’ Greene County Emergency Management Director Roger Axe said after the briefing.
    Weather service meteorologist Tara Dudzik said Thursday afternoon’s updated forecast shifted Isaac’s path slightly southward, with the storm’s center predicted to drift from Illinois into central Indiana and toward the state’s southeastern corner on Sunday and Monday.
    She said the heaviest rainfall — between 5 and 7 inches — was predicted to fall across the state’s central and southeastern counties over five days ending Tuesday.
    Those central and southeastern counties were expected to get 1 to 3 inches of rain Sunday, Dudzik said. Larger amounts were possible in some areas.
    Some communities including Indianapolis, Terre Haute and Greenwood prepositioned sandbags and other supplies to shore up levees and protect structures from possible flood waters.
    ‘‘It’s dry enough, the rivers and streams are down low enough, it shouldn’t cause any widespread problems,’’ said J.D. Kesler, deputy director for the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency in Terre Haute, located at the northern end of a lamb chop-shaped swath of southwestern Indiana that remained in ‘‘exceptional drought’’ on drought maps released Thursday.
    Indiana Homeland Security Director Joe Wainscott said the best thing state residents could do was to have emergency kits ready and take any needed steps well in advance of the storm.
    ‘‘We hope folks are thinking about preparedness and doing some things for themselves and their families now to get ready,’’ he said, noting that emergency responders could be stretched thin over the weekend. ‘‘Our emergency responders need to be able to help those in need who need the most.’’
    He also recommended motorists slow down and pay close attention to traffic.
    A webcast on the weather service’s website for Indianapolis says tropical storms are prone to produce brief, weak tornadoes, and the greatest probability for that occurring in Indiana was on Sunday.
    Holiday weekend events including the Rib America Festival in downtown Indianapolis and the National Hot Rod Association’s U.S. Nationals in Clermont west of the capital were prepared for the weather, officials said. The race’s plan, updated after the Indiana State Fair stage collapse last year, includes evacuation plans for Lucas Oil Raceway, said Brownsburg Fire Territory Chief Bill Brown.
    ‘‘We made sure we had a plan in place for public safety,’’ Brown said.
    Weather service rainfall expert Brad Herold said Indiana’s drought-lowered lakes and rivers and parched soils will likely absorb some of the storm’s downpours and reduce the threat of flooding.
    ‘‘There’s certainly going to be more storage capacity in the lakes and rivers than if they were starting out fuller,’’ he said.
    But Herold said the amount of rain dry soils will be able to quickly absorb will depend on the type of soil, with sandy soils sucking it up like a sponge but sunbaked heavy clay soils producing more runoff.
    He said the storm could be good news for cities like Indianapolis, which since Jan. 1 is running 6.64 inches below normal in precipitation.
    ‘‘This could completely wipe that out,’’ he said.