• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Gustav weakens to tropical storm

New Orleans a ghost town as Gustav hits
September 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The fragile levees survived their first test in three years, holding firm and sheltering this saucer-shaped city from devastating floods. Residents can breathe a little easier - and start plotting their return to New Orleans. The storm that crashed ashore as a Category 2 hurricane had by late Monday been downgraded to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.

Slideshow: Check out photos from Hurricane Gustav
Video: Watch Carlos Granda's report from Beaumont, Texas
Video: Watch Leslie Miller's report from New Orleans, La.
Video: Watch Wendy Burch's report on the area's evacuation shelters

More than 2 million people were evacuated from New Orleans, but about 10,000 people are believed to be still in the city.

On Sunday night, there was barely a drop of rain, but after a few hours, as winds picked up and the rain poured down as Hurricane Gustav arrived.

The National Hurricane Center said that Gustav was less than 90 miles from New Orleans early Monday morning, moving northwest at 16 miles per hour. The maximum sustained winds are 115 miles per hour. By Monday afternoon, Gustav had slammed into the Louisiana coastline, just west of New Orleans.

While Gustav has weakened to a Category 2 storm, about half the streets closest to the canal were flooded with ankle- to knee-deep water in the Upper 9th Ward. Even as water spilled over the levees, authorities assured the public that the levees would hold.

New Orleans has become a ghost town other than police and the National Guard. FEMA said there is enough food, water, ice and supplies to help 1 million victims over the next three days.

Many of the residents are frustrated because they are having a hard time finding a place to stay.

"We couldn't get in because they was all overbooked, so they tried to tell us somewhere us to go, but we don't know nothing about street ports, so you can't find anywhere else to go at right now," said evacuee Tamara Williams.

Gustav hit western Cuba with winds more than 200 miles per hour, tearing down trees and ripping off roofs. Close to a quarter of a million people were evacuated from low-lying areas. Many people lost their homes because of Gustav. The storm has killed 94 people in the Caribbean.

President Bush, speaking from Austin, Texas on Monday, said coordination between the states and the federal government to Gustav has been much better than Hurricane Katrina.

"I feel good about this event," Bush said.

While the rain tapered off in New Orleans, the tropical storm force has littered the streets with debris from trees and has caused some structural damage.

Gusts of wind make it dangerous to be in the city still, and the storm isn't quite over yet.

Thousands around the gulf coast of Texas have moved to safer ground inland.

Dark clouds moved over the area, indicating the arrival of Gustav in a few hours.

"I'm trying to get away from the storm," said resident Gilda Lewis.

Lewis is packing up and getting out. She's from New Orleans and went through Hurricane Katrina three years ago. She came to Port Arthur, Texas, to pick up her aunt and uncle and move further inland.

By late morning Monday, winds were picking up in Port Arthur. Resident Paul Andrews said he's watching the winds and waiting to see how bad it gets. So far, he says he's staying home.

"I've got two dogs, three cats, and we just decided not to on this one," he said. Andrews said he's not concerned.

Residents are stocking up at grocery stores, buying anything they can. They said even if the storm misses them, they said there's a good chance there won't be any power.

Lawrence Rougaux filled up his tank with gas and getting a little extra.

"Just in case, you know, we'll still have wind damage. Knock out the lights, so I went and got a couple generators," he said.

A big concern in the area is the oil refineries, which could shut down and send the price of oil soaring.

Eyewitness News Reporters Leslie Miller and Carlos Granda and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

- Get more L.A. breaking news, weather, traffic and sports
- Have a news tip? Send your tips, video, or pictures


Load Comments