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 Gustav Strengthens To Category 3

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PostSubject: Gustav Strengthens To Category 3   Gustav Strengthens To Category 3 Icon_minitimeSat Aug 30, 2008 8:53 am

Hurricane Gustav Strengthens, Accelerates, Heads for Cuba, Gulf

By Patrick Donahue and Robin Stringer

Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Gustav strengthened and
picked up speed as it headed toward western Cuba and the U.S.
Gulf Coast cities ravaged by Katrina and Rita in 2005, after
lashing the Cayman Islands with torrential rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center declared Gustav a
Category 3 hurricane at 6 a.m. local time today, with winds
of almost 115 miles (185 kilometers) per hour. The storm is on
course to make landfall in Cuba today and may reach central
Louisiana on Sept. 2 before moving northwest into parts of Texas.

A land strike to the west of New Orleans will place this
great city within the most dangerous part of the storm,'' said
Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist with Planalytics
Inc.
, a forecaster based in Wayne, Pennsylvania. ``Gustav has
the potential to generate much more damage than Katrina did.''

President George W. Bush yesterday declared a state of
emergency for Louisiana, three years to the day after Katrina
left more than 80 percent of New Orleans under water and caused
more than $81 billion in damage. That hurricane was followed
three weeks later by Rita, which ravaged central Louisiana and
parts of eastern Texas, the same areas now threatened by Gustav.

Gustav will ``likely explode into a major hurricane over
the next two days as it tracks on a west to northwesterly course
across the northwestern Caribbean,'' Rouiller said yesterday.

Parts of the Florida Keys were put under a storm watch late
yesterday. Hurricane warnings were posted for the Cayman Islands
and western Cuba, including the capital Havana.

Evacuation Plans

Bush ordered federal aid to supplement state and local
efforts, the White House said by e-mail. Texas, Mississippi and
Louisiana issued their own state emergency and disaster
declarations and alerted National Guard units.

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin urged an estimated 30,000
residents needing assistance to register with a program to help
them get out of the city if Gustav strikes. New Orleans will
assist residents who need help leaving at 8 a.m. today,
according to a statement. Louisiana has about 800 buses mustered
for a possible evacuation. Amtrak trains are also available.

``We have to take these storms seriously,'' Governor Bobby
Jindal said at a news conference on Aug. 28. ``We as Louisianans
have to be better prepared.''

Gustav will be the first test for federal officials of new
procedures since Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff said in Washington on Aug. 28 before flying to
Louisiana. The Bush administration was criticized for a slow
response after the 2005 storm.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had
food, water and supplies ready to move into the area.

Most at Risk
The upper Texas coastline to Louisiana will remain most
at risk to receive the brunt,'' Rouiller said. ``Landfall
projections into this high-risk target zone are expected to
occur very late Monday night and Tuesday.''

Gustav had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (129 kph) by
11 p.m. Miami time yesterday. The storm was centered about 25
miles west-southwest of Little Cayman Island and 55 miles east-
northeast of Grand Cayman, the U.S. National Hurricane Center
said on its Web site. It is heading northwest at 10 mph and is
forecast to reach western Cuba today.

Gustav was predicted to bring as much as 25 inches (64
centimeters) of rain to the Cayman Islands and western and
central Cuba, reaching the Gulf of Mexico by Aug. 31, the center
said. The rain ``will likely produce life-threatening flash
floods and mudslides,'' it said.

Haiti Deaths
The storm led to the deaths of 51 people in Haiti, Agence
France-Presse reported, and at least 11 in Jamaica. In the
neighboring Dominican Republic, eight people died and two were
hurt in a landslide, the country's Center of Emergency
Operations said on its Web site.

Some southern Louisiana parishes, where several oil
refineries are located, plan to start mandatory evacuations of
civilians today, local governments said on their Web sites. St.
Charles Parish, west of New Orleans, will probably begin
mandatory evacuations at noon local time. St. Bernard Parish
officials also anticipate compulsory evacuations today.

U.S. oil and gas platforms and pipelines are most
concentrated in the waters south of Louisiana and east of Texas.
Offshore fields in the Gulf accounted for 26 percent of total
U.S. crude production and 12 percent of natural gas output in
April, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Producers including Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc
evacuated workers from platforms in the Gulf region.
Crude oil for October delivery fell 13 cents to $115.46 a
barrel yesterday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures
are up 57 percent from a year ago.

The hurricane center also is monitoring Tropical Storm
Hanna, which was about 260 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico
and heading west-northwest at 14 mph as of 11 p.m. in Miami
yesterday. The system had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, and
may become a hurricane by tomorrow, reaching the southeastern
Bahamas, the center said.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Robin Stringer in New York at
rstringer@bloomberg.net.




Last Updated: August 30, 2008 06:36 EDT
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