Scattered power failures were reported in New Orleans with outages up to nearly 100,000 at one point. The Lake View neighborhood where levees broke during Katrina was largely blacked out. Some of the outages were caused by tree branches blowing down and taking out power lines. Several hospitals were reported working off generators. Despite the outages, the city's 23 massive drainage pumps continued to function.
As the winds picked up, the National Guard and police vehicles were pulled off the streets.
Nagin and other regional officials had warned residents to get out of town or it would be the "worst mistake of their lives," and this time people heeded the warning. New Orleans' streets were empty with only a handful of hardy gamblers staying behind.
The last stragglers hurried into Union Passenger Station Sunday, the central location for evacuees catching some of the last buses out of the city.
Miriel Right, who has lived in uptown New Orleans for more than 40 years, was unloading her truck with the help of her seven family members – including a 2-month-old baby.
"I'm nervous," said Right, whose home was flooded in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "But I love New Orleans, so I'll come back."
Inside the train station, volunteers and members of the National Guard processed evacuees, provided water and food and helped the disabled onto the buses.
Several families who had intended to ride out the storm in their homes told ABCNews.com that it was Nagin's heated press conference Saturday evening that pushed them to leave.
"You scared the hell out of me," one woman shouted at Nagin, who stopped by the station to see some of the last buses off.
"You've got to go," Nagin said to the evacuee. "We'll get you back quick."
Turning to reporters, Nagin didn't seem fazed by the outburst, saying, "Hey, it's one less person to have to rescue."
According to Nagin's estimates, between 14,000 and 15,000 people had been evacuated with the city's help as of this morning. Approximately 400 wheelchair-bound residents were moved during the night Saturday.
Late today, it was estimated that as many as 1 million people have fled the Gulf Coast.
"It was absolutely the right message to send," Nagin told ABCNews.com of his remarks Saturday, which included warning residents that if they stuck around despite evacuation orders they would "be on their own."
A dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by Nagin will go into effect this evening and will continue until the storm passes. Similar preparations are under way in neighboring states: Mississippi, Alabama and Texas have all instituted mandatory evacuations for several areas that may be hit by Gustav.
President Bush has also declared a state of emergency in all four states likely to be affected by the hurricane.
From Union Station, evacuees left on buses – most of which were headed to northern Louisiana – and also Amtrak trains, operated by FEMA – the last of which pulled out of the station late this afternoon heading for Memphis, Tenn. Thousands of others were flown out of the city on government-funded chartered planes.
Paul Finholt was hoping to catch the last train out of New Orleans – and, quite literally, his life depends on in.
"I have retina cancer," Finholt said. "And I have to have emergency surgery in Memphis."
"The chemotherapy didn't work and if I don't get the surgery the cancer could spread," said Finholt, who has been sick for two years.