Monday, September 1, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

The mayor of New Orleans has ordered the evacuation of the city, in the face of Hurricane Gustav, a category four hurricane, the second-highest on the five-stage Saffir-Simpson scale, labelled "the mother of all storms". The hurricane had weakened to category three over Cuba, where it killed at least 86 people, but it still looks as though it is more powerful and more destructive than Hurricane Katrina which devastated the area in August 2005.

Just one day after the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, many had already decided to leave their homes, with the government providing buses and trains for those who can't leave without assistance.

The city's West Bank was largely spared by Katrina, but could see "significant flooding" because its 3-metre levees are no match for Gustav's storm surge, which could top 5 metres.

Katrina's massive storm surge broke through protective levees on August 29, 2005, and flooded 80 percent of the city. It killed about 1500 people along the US Gulf Coast and caused US$80 billion in damages, making it the costliest US natural disaster.

There was bumper-to-bumper traffic on highways leading out of the city on Saturday, and six low-lying parishes - the Louisiana equivalent of US counties - issued evacuation orders.

All major Louisiana interstates will allow only one-way traffic away from the coast starting at 4am (9pm NZT) on Sunday. The last flight out of the New Orleans airport is scheduled to depart at 6pm (11am Monday NZT) on Sunday.

In all, 11.5 million people are in the path of Gustav, according to the US Census Bureau. - New Orleans mayor orders evacuation - Thousands flee New Orleans - Possible scenarios for Hurricane Gustav - Cuba tallies Gustav's economic damage

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