Hope as Hurricane Force Is Redcuced; New Orleans Is 'Cautiously Optimistic'

Article excerpt

Byline: Wesley Johnson

HURRICANE Gustav crashed into a mainly deserted US Gulf coast as a slightly weakened Category 2 storm yesterday.

An estimated two million people fled the state of Louisiana over the weekend as the hurricane headed towards New Orleans, just three years after Katrina devastated the city.

Residents mainly heeded the warnings of its mayor that "the storm of the century" was coming and it was "time to be scared".

The eye of the storm landed south west of the city, which resembled a ghost town.

Gustav hit land near the community of Cocodrie, the heart of Louisiana's fishing and oil industry, just before 10am local time (4pm BST), the US National Hurricane Centre said.

Forecasters once feared it would arrive as a devastating Category 4 hurricane, with much more powerful winds.

Three years ago, Katrina killed more than 1,800 people after it smashed the Gulf coast with a surge that topped 27ft, a far higher wall of water than Gustav hauled ashore. Katrina was also a bigger storm when it made landfall in August 2005, and it made a direct hit on the Mississippi coast. …