Georges heads for New Orleans

INTERSTATE ROUTE 10, the only main road out of the city of New Orleans, was clogged with traffic yesterday as fearful residents sought to flee the city before the onslaught of Hurricane Georges.

More than a million people have been told to leave their homes and head for safer areas in the states of Alabama and Louisiana.

The hurricane, which has already wreaked havoc across much of the Caribbean and the Florida Keys, was gathering force last night and set to reach land before midday today.

Reports suggested it could land anywhere between Mobile, on the coast in Alabama, and New Orleans, further west along the coast in neighbouring Mississippi. In Port Sulphur, Louisiana, near where the storm was expected to make landfall, the sheriff's deputy said: "I hope everybody who needed to get out is gone. It's blowing really hard but no rain yet. I wish we were gone too."

Heavy rain and strong winds were already reported from Louisiana with the arrival of the outer squalls of the hurricane.

The atmosphere in the city was tense, though there was no sign of panic, as people bought stocks of bottled water and other staples, boarded up their homes and took to the road.

On Saturday night, those determined to sit it out continued to party in the city's French Quarter, but many of the most famous clubs and restaurants were closing down and boarding up.

The voluntary or compulsory evacuation orders covers a wide swathe of the US Gulf coast from Louisiana in the west to the Florida Panhandle in the east.

But forecasters at the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said that the likely focus of the storm, barring any last minute change of direction, was New Orleans. Hotels in towns and cities far enough inland to be regarded as safe from the storm warned they already had no more room for tardy evacuees.

Although New Orleans itself is protected by more than 100 levees, flooding was seen as the greatest danger in this low-lying area that is only just recovering from the ravages of a tropical storm two weeks ago. The damage caused then prompted President Bill Clinton to declare the worst affected districts a disaster area, allowing them to qualify for federal aid. But New Orleans itself was not affected severely enough to qualify.

New Orleans' situation - with the shoreline on two sides and lagoons on the third - leaves it vulnerable to storm surges of the 17ft-plus magnitude which it is feared Hurricane Georges may bring. A force 2 hurricane when it hit the Caribbean and southern Florida at the end of last week, Georges was described yesterday as a "strong category 2" which could fast develop into a category 3 - with winds of more than 120mph - before making landfall.

Initially, Georges had been forecast to reach land along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. The beach resorts there were cleared on Saturday, and the casinos at Biloxi were closed. The shoreline, usually bustling with boats and people, was eerily deserted, even as the sun continued to shine.

It was late on Saturday that the hurricane made a slight move to the west. It was this move that made New Orleans the most likely target. Conceding that they were ill-prepared for a hurricane, the local authorities ordered mandatory evacuation of about a million people.

The mayor, Marc Morial, declared a state of emergency, a prerequisite for putting in place a curfew and for calling in federal assistance.

The most recent forecast was that the centre of the hurricane could reach the Mississippi delta by yesterday evening, although its progress towards land was slowing even as its windspeeds were picking up.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower