Cities, Towns Shut Down As Gustav Advances

As Gustav heads towards the Gulf Coast, cities and towns in the region are shutting down, and hundreds of thousands of residents are evacuating.

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JEFF BRADY: I'm Jeff Brady in Lafayette, Louisiana. A few hours west of here in Port Arthur, Texas, authorities are putting into practice lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years back. This morning at the evacuation center, everyone got a color-coded bracelet with a bar code on it. Port Arthur senior planner Paul Brown says that way, authorities can track evacuees wherever they go.

Mr. PAUL BROWN (Senior Planner, Port Arthur, Texas): Then when they get out to the bus that they're assigned to, they have hand-held scanners for the bar code, and then they scan them again to make sure the people we sent from here are actually on the bus.

BRADY: Port Arthur sits only about three feet above sea level. Still, there are a few people who plan to stay for the storm. Daphne Johnson(ph) is not one of them. She went through Hurricane Katrina.

Ms. DAPHNE JOHNSON (Resident, Port Arthur, Texas): We watched the roof come of the house where we was. It was scary, you know what I'm saying? And so I don't want to go through that again.

BRADY: Here in Lafayette, the 2005 hurricanes caused a lot less damage, and people expect to be spared again. Despite predictions of 90-mile-an-hour winds, authorities have not issued a mandatory evacuation. Corporal Paul Muton(ph), with the Lafayette Police Department, did warn residents that if they stay, there won't be much help for them.

Corporal PAUL MUTON (Lafayette Police Department, Louisiana): You need to make sure you have enough supplies, you have everything, all the tools you need to shelter through this storm and be able to last at least until the winds die down, and then we can provide any assistance we need to.

(Soundbite of hammering)

BRADY: Around town, a few people are putting plywood over the windows. Louis Cormier(ph) has been through quite a few hurricanes and says flooding shouldn't be a problem where he lives. The wind, on the other hand.

Mr. LOUIS CORMIER (Resident, Lafayette, Louisiana): I'm worried about the trees. Trees are nice when it's hot, but when it's a case like this over here, we pay for it.

BRADY: Cormier's neighbor is hoping the bars on his windows will be enough to protect him from flying debris. When Hurricane Gustav comes, he plans to go inside and have a beer. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Lafayette, Louisiana.

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