New Orleans Makes Plans As Gustav Moves Closer

Gulf Coast states prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Gustav, after it inflicted floods and landslides on the island of Hispaniola.
By Jonathan M. Katz
Associated Press
Thursday, August 28, 2008

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Aug. 27 -- Hurricane Gustav triggered flooding and landslides that killed at least 23 people before weakening to a tropical storm, but forecasters said Wednesday that it remains a major threat to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasts suggested it could head toward the U.S. Gulf Coast as a dangerous Category 3 hurricane next week, and New Orleans drew up evacuation plans. The tentative forecast track pointed toward Louisiana, but forecasters said it may hit anywhere from South Texas to the Florida Panhandle if it continues to develop.

That could mean higher gasoline prices for drivers in many countries. Global oil prices rose early Wednesday on concerns that the storm could disrupt output in the Gulf of Mexico, home to a quarter of U.S. crude production. Oil workers began leaving their rigs late Wednesday.

Gustav's maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph Wednesday morning, with higher gusts. The storm was centered about 90 miles west of Port-au-Prince and was moving toward the northwest at 5 mph. It was expected to continue moving toward the west-northwest.

A hurricane warning was in effect for parts of Cuba. At the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, troops were enjoying a breezy day after Gustav slowed and was downgraded to a tropical storm.

New Orleans began planning a possible mandatory evacuation, hoping to prevent the chaos it saw after Hurricane Katrina struck three years ago Friday. Mayor C. Ray Nagin left the Democratic National Convention in Denver to help the city prepare.

Gustav killed 15 people on Haiti's deforested southern peninsula, where it dumped 12 inches or more of rain. A landslide buried eight people, including a mother and six of her children, in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

"They were all members of a family who had taken shelter since Tropical Storm Fay and left to go home because they thought the danger had passed," said Luis Luna Paulino, director of the civil defense agency.

Gustav also dumped torrential rains on southern Haiti, which is prone to devastating floods because its terrain has been stripped of trees for farming and charcoal.

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