Gustav weakens to tropical storm

2nd September 2008, Comments 0 comments

Hurricane Gustav dropped to category 1 and whimpered to a tropical storm by early Tuesday.

2 September 2008

WASHINGTON -- Hurricane Gustav, the monster storm that sent two million Gulf Coast residents fleeing, spared the empty city of Louisiana the horrors they had been bracing for, although it took 12 lives.

Gustav made landfall on Monday morning near the town of Cocodrie in Louisiana state, and dropped quickly down from a category 3 to a category 2 hurricane on the 1-to-5 Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of 177 kilometres per hour.

By early Tuesday, Gustav had dropped to category 1 and whimpered to a tropical storm, the National Hurricane Centre reported. As it travelled across the Caribbean and Cuba over the last week, however, it had killed 80 people with winds of up to 249 kilometres per hour.

There was some damage from winds of 177 kilometres per hour and some minor flooding. Nearly half the state's 1.1 million customers were in the dark Monday night, Entergy spokesman Morgan Stewart told the New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper.

Officials were keeping watch for a possible surge along the Mississippi River from heavy rainfall and high winds.

But it was nothing like Hurricane Katrina of 2005 that took 1,800 lives, flooded New Orleans for more than a week and trapped tens of thousands without food and water for days.

According to the Picayune's count, Gustav appeared to have killed about 12 people, none of them in New Orleans.

An elderly couple was killed in Baton Rouge when a tree dropped on the house they had taken refuge in. Four people were killed in a traffic accident as they fled the storm. Six critical-care patients died during evacuations of nursing homes and hospitals, according to State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine.

On Monday evening, televised images showed water spilling over some of New Orleans rebuilt levees, causing minor flooding and sending volunteers and rescue officials scurrying with sand bags to shore them up.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin were in no rush to bring evacuees back to town before downed power cables were secured and wind-blown refuse could be removed from the streets.

Jindal said it was "too, too early to say that it's safe" for return on Tuesday.

Gustav wrote political history by forcing Republicans to rethink their four-day presidential convention in St Paul, Minnesota, 2,000 kilometres away.

To avoid appearing insensitive to the natural disaster unfolding on the Gulf Coast, Senator John McCain, 72, the party's presumptive nominee, cancelled political speeches for the opening day on Monday.

US President George W Bush had a chance to redeem the black mark from the 2005 storm. Then he had attended political events and failed to supervise federal efforts while Katrina wreaked havoc. On Monday, he flew to Texas to oversee disaster relief efforts after cancelling his speech at the Republican convention.

The massive mandatory evacuation of residents was one of the largest in US history. From New Orleans, an estimated 300,000 people fled in their own transport. Another 18,000 were transported by the city via train, bus and planes.

[dpa / Expatica]

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