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Gustav Keeps On Coming

by @ 8:42 am on August 30, 2008. Filed under In The News, Weather

Hurricane Gustav strengthened overnight and continued on course for U.S. Gulf Coast:

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — Gustav’s top winds got up to 115 mph (185 kph) Saturday morning, raising the storm to Category 3 status, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Gustav is expected to pass over the western tip of Cuba later Saturday as it moves into the northwestern Caribbean.

Forecasters warn Gustav could grow to be a Category 4 hurricane as it barrels toward the U.S. Gulf Coast for a landfall late Monday or Tuesday.

Gustav is the second major hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.

And, right now, it looks like the storm is headed on a course that would put landfall somewhere west of New Orleans on the Louisiana coast:

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And residents are being told to get out as soon as possible:

Residents of vulnerable coastal parishes should evacuate as soon as possible in anticipation of an expected dangerous Category 3 Hurricane Gustav, packing winds of 115 mph and arriving early Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday.

A Louisiana State University scientist working with state emergency preparedness officials warned late Friday that Gustav could push as much as 15 feet of storm surge onto a wide stretch of the state’s coastline west of New Orleans.

“If it stays on this southwest Louisiana track, Gustav will be like a hybrid between Katrina and Rita, ” Robert Twilley said. “And right in the middle, you’ve got the huge Atchafalaya basin. . . . I just hope people don’t wait too long” to get out.

The state will open contraflow traffic patterns on interstates “early, early Sunday morning” to assist the exodus, Jindal said as he announced preparations to move people out of at least 19 parishes in which a state of emergency has been declared.

For the first time, the state’s contraflow plan, in which all lanes of interstate highways flow in a single direction away from the storm, will be implemented for southeast and southwest Louisiana simultaneously, Jindal said.

Jindal and other officials urged residents of the New Orleans area to move north or east — not west, where Gustav appears to be headed.

He said more than 1,500 National Guard troops moved into New Orleans today, adding that he expects the state to deploy an additional 7,000 Guard soldiers to secure the areas that are evacuated.

“We don’t want folks worried about their property, ” Jindal said at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. “We want people to be worried about their personal safety.”

The one thing that’s becoming clear is that Jindal is intent on not repeating the mistakes that were made three years ago by state and city officials.

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