September 1, 2008

Gustav Brings Rain, Wind to La.

Rain and high wind began arriving along the U.S. Gulf Coast Sunday night as Hurricane Gustav appeared set to make landfall Monday, forecasters said.

At 11 p.m. EDT the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of the hurricane -- now rated a Category 3 storm -- was about 220 miles southeast of New Orleans, 310 miles southeast of Lafayette, La., and 180 miles southeast of Port Fourchon along the Louisiana Coast.

Gustav was moving toward the northwest at about 16 mph and was expected to continue in that motion before landfall, expected Monday on the northern Gulf Coast.

The storm had maximum sustained winds near 115 mph with higher gusts. Forecasters said Gustav could intensify Sunday night and is expected to remain a major hurricane until landfall, before losing some forward speed Tuesday.

An estimated 2 million people evacuated coastal south Louisiana Sunday. State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson said 90 percent to 95 percent of the residents of coastal Louisiana had heeded orders to evacuate, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.

"More than 200,000 have left the New Orleans area,'' Edmonson said. "These are not the numbers we saw during Katrina because people left earlier and heeded the recommendations of the governor.''

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has urged coastal residents to evacuate as soon as possible before Hurricane Gustav reaches the state Monday.

A hurricane warning remained in effect from just east of High Island, Texas, eastward to the Alabama-Florida border, including New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. A tropical storm warning was posted from east of the Alabama-Florida border to the Ochlockonee River.