Hurricane weakens as it nears New Orleans

Hurricane Gustav weakened slightly to a Category 2 storm as it headed towards New Orleans today, the US National Hurricane Centre said.









The city resembled a ghost town this morning after its mayor warned "the storm of the century" was coming and it was "time to be scared".



Torrential downpours swept across the US Gulf coast three years after New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Forecasters warned the eye of the hurricane and its 110mph winds would hit Louisiana at around 5pm UK time.



An estimated two million people have been evacuated in the state, Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) deputy director Harvey Johnson said.













The main threat to New Orleans appeared to be flooding, with an "extremely dangerous" storm surge of 10ft to 14ft in tidal levels on some areas of the coast.

But despite the mass evacuation in recent days, many residents were resolutely staying on.



Aileen Bennett, 43, originally from London, lives in one of the areas set to be worst hit.



From her home in Lafayette, about 110 miles west of New Orleans, she said earlier: "I am actually standing outside and it is blissfully quiet and beautiful.



"It has not been what we were expecting but we are prepared."



The latest forecast from the US-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the worst of the storms would sweep through Louisiana, west of New Orleans.



The NHC's latest update said reports indicated that "maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 110mph, with higher gusts".



It went on: "No significant change in strength is likely before landfall with weakening expected to begin after Gustav moves inland later today.



"Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the centre and tropical storm force winds extend outwards up to 230 miles."



President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney skipped the Republican Party's national convention after presidential hopeful John McCain suspended the majority of proceedings because of mounting concerns about Gustav.



Mr Bush, who was severely criticised for his administration's poor response to the Katrina disaster, warned America yesterday of the "dangerous" threat posed by the storm.



He urged residents on the US Gulf coast to heed local warnings and added: "Know that the American people stand with you and we will face this emergency together."



He was widely attacked in the wake of Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in US coastal areas, for a slow, apparently casual, approach to the disaster and the relief effort.



Today, he was travelling to Texas to meet emergency workers and evacuees.



Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama also stepped into the crisis and offered to tap his huge network of donors and volunteers to help any victims of Gustav.



"I think we can get tons of volunteers to travel down there if it becomes necessary," Mr Obama said.



Gustav has already left a trail of death and destruction in its wake, killing 94 people across the Caribbean.



New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew from sunset last night as Gustav approached and said the storm would be "big and ugly".



Looting, one of the major problems in the wake of Katrina three years ago, would not be tolerated, Mr Nagin said.



Another Briton defying the warnings was James Lewis, 38, who left Putney, south west London, to run a pub in New Orleans.



He said he was defying the order to prevent "what happened to my pub when Katrina rolled in - looting and mindless destruction".



The Crown & Anchor is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, which is being evacuated.



Yesterday, Mr Lewis, 38, said: "The general consensus here is (the mayor) is covering his back after the colossal muck-up over Katrina."



The US authorities' actions will be closely scrutinised after what was widely seen as a series of catastrophic failures in its slow and inadequate response to Katrina.



After Katrina hit land on August 29 2005, three-quarters of the city was flooded after the storm surge breached its protective levees.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee