Residents along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana, are being ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the state. With Hurricane Katrina still fresh on everyone’s mind, New Orleans is under a mandatory evacuation order and states all along the coast from Texas to Mississippi prepare for a possible hit from Gustav.
National Hurricane Center forecasters were surprised by how quickly Gustav strengthened in recent days. Within 24 hours the storm went from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane. Gustav is currently a category 3 storm with sustained winds of 125 mph (gusting to 145 mph) and is expected to intensify in the next 12 hours, possibly reaching category 5 status for a time. As of 3:00am MT Sunday the storm was 425 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and heading northwest at 16 mph.
By the time it makes landfall, forecasters expect it to be a category 3 storm, possibly a category 4. The current forecast path for Gustav has it striking the central Louisiana coast with devastating results. Storm surges of 18 to 25 feet on the eastern side of the hurricane are possible and 6 to 12 inches of rain may fall in Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southern Arkansas.
In related news, the Republican National Committee was waiting to determine whether or not to proceed with its convention set to begin Monday it St. Paul, MN. If it proceeds, it is unlikely President Bush would address the delegates in person Monday as scheduled and would probably do so instead by video link. John McCain in an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News said, “It just wouldn’t be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near-tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster. So we’re monitoring it from day to day, and I’m saying a few prayers, too.”
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