UPDATED: With mandatory evacuation notice
Gustav is upgraded to an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane and an estimated 1 million people fled the Gulf Coast before the mandatory evacuation order for New Orleans residents. The storm threatens to strike the Gulf Coast harder than Hurricane Katrina did three years ago this weekend.
The evacuation of New Orleans becomes mandatory at 8 a.m. Sunday along the vulnerable west bank of the Mississippi River and noon on the east bank. Mayor Ray C. Nagin calls Gustav the "mother of all storms" and told residents to "get out of town. This is not the one to play with."
With winds exceeding 145 mph, Gustav became a Category 4 storm on Saturday as it menaced western Cuba. Forecasters predict the storm will reach Category 5—the strongest level—and winds at better than 155 mph before hitting the Gulf Coast states as early as September 1. Gustav has already killed more than 80 people in the Caribbean, and, if current forecasts hold, it will make landfall Monday afternoon "somewhere between East Texas and western Mississippi."
Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005 as a Category 3 hurricane with winds near 130 mph. New Orleans suffered a catastrophic flood as the city's levee system collapsed. It killed 1,800 people and caused more than $80 billion in damage. This was the most destruction of any U.S. storm.