This satellite image shows Hurricane Gustav taken at 6:55 a.m. EDT Saturday Aug. 30, 2008. (AP/NOAA)
August 30, 2008
(CBS/AP) Gustav plowed toward mainland Cuba Saturday as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane while both Cubans and Americans scrambled to flee the path of the fast-growing storm
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city on Saturday, directing residents still recovering from the devastation left behind three years ago from Hurricane Katrina to flee from the approaching Hurricane Gustav.
Nagin said an informal evacuation that has taken place for days becomes mandatory at 8 a.m. Sunday on the city's west bank. It becomes mandatory on the east bank at noon.
Forecasters said Gustav was just short of becoming a top-scale Category 5 hurricane as it powered its way toward Cuba. Authorities evacuated at least 300,000 people across the country, including western communities, cities near Havana and on the Isla de la Juventud, or Isle of Youth, an island of 87,000 people south of mainland Cuba.
By Saturday evening, Gustav was about 65 miles west-southwest of Havana and it was moving northwest near 15 mph.
Gustav, ripped through the Isle of Youth, causing extensive damage, according to Ana Isa Delgado, head of Civil Defense on the island. Delgado said gusts of wind tossed parked cars and buses into the air leaving only twisted wrecks, ripped doors from their hinges, and carried off roofs and water tanks, reports CBS News producer Portia Siegelbaum
Even areas considered secure were severely damaged and streets are virtually blocked with downed trees and rubbish. There was flooding in some low-lying areas but not in the main cities. Several people have been hospitalized with storm related injuries but no one is critical and there are no reports of deaths.
The hurricane was projected to plow into the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico at full force Sunday, and make landfall along the U.S. coast anywhere from Texas to Mississippi as early as Monday afternoon, reports The Early Show weather anchor Dave Price. A hurricane watch was issued from Texas east to Florida, an area that includes New Orleans, which Hurricane Katrina devastated in 2005.
More than a million Americans took buses, trains, planes and cars as they streamed out of New Orleans and other coastal cities, where Katrina killed about 1,600 people.
Gustav already has killed 81 people by triggering floods and landslides in other Caribbean nations.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Gustav had sustained winds of 150 mph - with higher gusts - as the heart of the storm began hitting Cuba's outlying island province of Isla de Juventud, where officials cut power to many areas. A Category 5 hurricane has winds above 155 mph.