August 30, 2008

New Orleans Begins Gustav Evacuations

Officials say evacuation efforts have started as Hurricane Gustav churns toward an expected early-Tuesday landfall on the central Louisiana coast.

"I am strongly, strongly encouraging everyone in the city to evacuate," New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said in a news conference Saturday afternoon. A mandatory evacuation could be announced by early Sunday, The New York Times reported.

Voluntary evacuations had begun with local, state and federal officials all saying they were cooperating to prepare for any situation -- in contrast to Hurricane Katrina experiences. Jeb Tate, spokesman for the New Orleans Emergency Medical Services, said evacuation efforts that included lining up buses and rail travel for all old, infirm and impoverished people were well under way.

"This is what we practice and train for, " Tate said. "We are ready for the duration of this storm."

Evacuation is aimed at taking coastal and New Orleans residents to higher ground in northern Louisiana as Gustav hits. National Hurricane Center experts predict the storm will still possess hurricane strength winds as it passes north of Lake Charles about a full day after landfall. That slow movement would likely increase heavy rainfalls and flooding in southern Louisiana and southeastern Texas.