ADAM NOSSITER and SHAILA DEWAN
Sunday, Aug 31, 2008
NEW ORLEANS — City officials ordered everyone to leave New Orleans beginning Sunday morning — the first mandatory evacuation since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city three years ago — as Hurricane Gustav grew into what the city’s mayor on Saturday called “the storm of the century” and moved toward the Louisiana coast.
The mayor, C. Ray Nagin, said Hurricane Gustav was larger and more dangerous than Hurricane Katrina, and he pleaded with residents to get out or face flooding and life-threatening winds.
“This is the mother of all storms, and I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like it,” Mr. Nagin said at an evening news briefing. “This is the real deal. This is not a test. For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
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The mayor’s warnings were considerably more dramatic than the forecasts issued by the National Hurricane Center, and he may have been exaggerating in order to shock jaded residents into taking prudent steps. But he said storm surges, particularly on the city’s West Bank, could be twice as high as the neighborhood’s 10-foot levees, and said those people choosing to remain in their homes should have an ax to chop through their roofs when the floodwaters rise.
The hurricane could arrive on American shores just as the Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin in Minnesota; Senator John McCain of Arizona said the party was considering whether to shorten the gathering or delay it by a few days. Mr. McCain and his choice for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, plan to visit Mississippi on Sunday to see how preparations for the storm are going, a campaign official said.
This article was posted: Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 3:29 am