August 31, 2008

Gustav Moves to Within 375 Miles of N.O.

Hurricane Gustav, packing winds as high as 120 mph in the Gulf of Mexico, Sunday moved to within 375 miles of New Orleans as city residents evacuated.

Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Gustav had calmed a bit Sunday morning after passing over Cuba, moving down from a Category 4 to a Category 3 storm -- still capable of producing winds between 111 mph and 130 mph.

But the meteorologists said Gustav could well strengthen to a Category 4 again later Sunday while over the warm Gulf waters. Such hurricanes can produce winds between 131 and 155 mph. Gustav was expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast sometime Monday.

In a city still recovering from 2005's devastating Category 3 Hurricane Katrina, Gustav's approach prompted 10,000 people to evacuate Saturday and for businesses to close early. Resident Jack Ware, who stayed during Katrina but was leaving for Chattanooga, told UPI, "It's kind of funny. Those who stayed during Katrina are evacuating. Those who left during Katrina are deciding to stay."

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said the USDA was preparing to work closely with federal emergency management officials to supply food to potential refugees.