Gustav Less Powerful Than Predicted

An update on Hurricane Gustav making landfall in Louisiana.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick, and here's the latest on Hurricane Gustav. The eye of the storm came ashore about 70 miles south west of New Orleans. It hit land as a category-two storm. The winds blew as high as 110 miles an hour. But that is significantly less powerful than emergency officials had once feared.

President Bush was supposed to speak at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul today. He called that off. He's now in Texas, where he's been briefed by emergency management officials. Mr. Bush called Gustav a serious event, and he warned that the storm has yet to pass.

In New Orleans there is rain, there's wind, but the city's been spared a direct hit from Gustav. It will be a couple of days before we'll have a real sense of the damage and any flooding. Most of the residents of the city and the Gulf Coast have evacuated. Many have gone north to Lafayette, Louisiana, and NPR's Jeff Brady is there.

JEFF BRADY: The rain is coming down pretty heavy right now, but it's not that windy. Gusts are reaching only about 30 mile per hour; that's just fine with the folks at this budget hotel on the north side of Lafayette. A few hours ago, just before the rain started, I found Tommy Buxton (ph) walking his dogs around the hotel. He's from Raceland, Louisiana. That's near Houma, and just about the point where the eye of the hurricane made landfall. Buxton says he'd recently finished remodeling his house before Gustav arrived.

Mr. TOMMY BUXTON (Resident of Raceland, Louisiana): I hope the storm don't tear it up. Soon as you start rebuilding it's like, here it comes again, you know. But it's been a couple of years, like my daddy kept telling me, so we've been lucky - we've been very lucky, we're due for a storm.

BRADY: Buxton says he's pretty relieved Gustav is not as powerful as first predicted. I asked him if he'll be upset if it starts to look like authorities overreacted in calling for a mandatory evacuation. And he said, absolutely not.

Mr. BUXTON: I mean, it calls for some money to do it, but money compared to our life is nothing.

(Soundbite of dog barking)

BRADY: Other evacuees here told me the same thing. Hurricane Katrina is still fresh in their minds, and one woman said, whenever the mayor of New Orleans says it's time to leave, she's going to listen.

CHADWICK: That's NPR's Jeff Brady, reporting from Lafayette, Louisiana, where many of the evacuees have gone. We're going to keep on top of the situation all along the Gulf Coast as Gustav moves ashore, and we'll keep you up-to-date throughout the program.

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