Hurricane Gustav continues march toward Gulf Coast

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Sunday

McCain announces plans to scale back Republican Convention

John McCain and his new running mate got a first-hand briefing in Mississippi about their preparations for Gustav.

McCain and Sarah Palin visited an emergency management center in Jackson.

After visiting, he announced plans to scale back the Republican Convention in Minnesota, and really focus only on the basics.

"There's very little doubt that we have to go from a party event, to a call to the nation for action -- action to help our fellow citizens in this time of tragedy and disaster, action in the form of volunteering, donations," he said.

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and other prominent GOP governors have all announced that they are skipping the convention.



Obama calls on supporters to donate to Gustav's victims

Barack Obama was in Ohio Sunday and asked his donors to start sending money to help Gustav's victims.

The Democratic presidential candidate campaigned in Lima, Ohio, after stopping for Sunday services at an Episcopal church.

The candidate says he thinks he can get a lot of volunteers to travel to the Gulf Coast if necessary.

"Since we've got a network of volunteers and donors all across the country, it is … to try to coordinate with officials to figure out what would be most useful if we can get volunteers, if we can get donations, where they can be directed," Obama said.

He says he may visit storm-damaged areas once things have settled down so that he won't put added pressure on police protection.



Mandatory evacuation begins in New Orleans

The mandatory evacuation of New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Gustav began Sunday morning, with residents on the city's vulnerable West Bank told to start leaving first.

By noon, residents in the rest of the city were supposed to be out of their homes and heading to safety.

City officials were nervously watching Hurricane Gustav's track. The storm had picked up speed and was moving northwest at 16 mph with winds of 120 mph.

It was projected to make landfall as early as Monday, and could bring a storm surge of up to 20 feet to the coast and rainfall totals of up to 15 inches.

Mayor Ray Nagin called Gustav "the mother of all storms," and says anyone ignoring calls to leave would be on their own.



New Orleans imposes dawn-to-dusk curfew

The city of New Orleans imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew that was to begin Sunday at sunset ahead of Hurricane Gustav's devastating winds and rains that were on a path to strike the Gulf Coast.

The last bus carrying residents to safety was to leave at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Gustav dropped from a Category 4 to a Category 3 storm overnight, but forecasters warned it could gain strength from the gulf's warm waters before making landfall as early as Monday.

Mayor Ray Nagin also warned that looting -- one of the chronic problems after Hurricane Katrina -- would not be tolerated.

"Looters will go directly to jail. You will not get a pass this time," he said. "You will not have a temporary stay in the city. You will go directly to the Big House."



Bush: No to convention, plans Gustav trip to Texas

President Bush is skipping the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. He will travel instead to Texas to meet with emergency workers and evacuees as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast.

The president was briefed Sunday by officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Afterward, Bush urged residents to heed local officials' order to evacuate.

Bush told potential storm victims: "Know that the American people stand with you. We'll face this emergency together."

The White House says the president spoke by phone with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. A spokeswoman says Nagin told Bush the forecast did not look good, but that he was pleased so far with the coordination with the federal government.

The White House announced earlier that Bush and Vice President Cheney would skip the convention's opening day. First Lady Laura Bush is still scheduled to address delegates Monday.



Police: Nearly 1.9 million flee Louisiana

With Hurricane Gustav just a day away from a possible monster hit on New Orleans, state police say roughly 1.9 million people have evacuated coastal Louisiana. Thousands more have fled from coastal Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson said Sunday he was especially pleased at how few people remain in New Orleans, which he compared to a ghost town.

Barreling toward the Gulf Coast with frightening strength and size, Gustav was a Category 3 hurricane with winds extending out 65 miles from the storm's center.

The storm could make landfall Monday, bringing a storm surge of up to 14 feet to the coast and rainfall totals of up to 20 inches.

Saturday

Hurricane Gustav is slamming Cuba's mainland after hitting a smaller offshore island with 150-mile-per-hour winds.

The civil defense chief for the Isle of Youth says many people there were injured, but there are no reports of deaths. She says nearly all the roads have been washed out, and some areas are heavily flooded. Gustav knocked down utility poles, toppled mango and almond trees, and peeled back the tin roofs of homes.

A quarter of a million people were evacuated from western Cuba, including the smaller island.

The National Hurricane Center says Gustav could soon become an extremely dangerous Category Five hurricane, the worst there is, with winds in excess of 155 miles-an-hour. Only three such storms have reached the U.S. mainland since they began keeping records.

Gustav is projected to plow into the Gulf of Mexico at full force Sunday, and reach the U.S. Gulf Coast as early as Monday afternoon.

A hurricane watch is in effect from Texas to the Alabama-Florida border.



Bush: Gulf Coast governors to have full federal support

The White House says President Bush is getting regular updates on Hurricane Gustav, the ferocious storm that could slam into the Louisiana Gulf Coast as early as Monday afternoon.

He spoke to the governors of Gulf Coast states by phone today, to check on preparations and pledge full federal support. Bush has already declared a state of emergency.

The military is flying critical care patients out of harm's way. FEMA is ready with water, food, generators, blankets and cots.

The White House is extremely mindful of how horribly things went three years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Press Secretary Dana Perino says the huge effort this time still doesn't guarantee that "everything will be totally smooth."



McCains, Palins going to region threatened by storm

Likely GOP presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, are traveling to Mississippi to check on people getting prepared for Hurricane Gustav.

McKain aides say McCain and his wife Cindy will join Palin in traveling to Jackson, Miss., Sunday at the invitation of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. They said the McCains and Palins want to check on preparations because they are concerned about the people threatened by the storm, which is heading through the Gulf of Mexico and threatening the same area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina three years ago. The storm could hit the coast as early as Monday afternoon.

They will receive a briefing at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, a permanent operations center monitoring hurricane response.


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