New Orleans Mayor Warns of 'Storm of the Century'

Unlike most of his neighbors, New Orleans resident Larry Denny isn't worried enough about Hurricane Gustav to leave.

Never mind that his house flooded during Hurricane Katrina, the stress cracks in his roof have yet to be fixed and he and his wife felt it was necessary to get two guard dogs and an armory of weapons to ward off looters that roamed their street back in 2005.

Denny says that there is "no way" he and his wife Charlotte will evacuate New Orleans.

"Why do we stay?" asked Denny, who was raised in Louisiana and returned to New Orleans 15 years ago to settle in Orleans Parish, just north of the French Quarter. "Because we know the government won't protect our house, so we have to."

As of early Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported that Gustav had weakened slightly overnight from a Category 4 hurricane to a Category 3, and had sustained wins of 120 mph. The hurricane is predicted to regain strength as it moves north Sunday.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who ordered a mandatory evacvuation of the city on Saturday, had not changed his mind about what was coming today, even though Gustav had weakened as it passed over Cuba more than forecasters expected.

"This is still a big ugly storm," he said at a news conference this morning. "It's still strong and I strongly urge everyone to leave."

Denny, however, said he won't be taking the mayor's advice.

"I won't be coming back to a shell," said Denny, who added that just like he rode out Katrina he'll do it again for Gustav, which is predicted to make landfall on the northern Gulf Coast on Monday at its current clip of 16 mph.

Nagin tried to offer some reassurance to people like Denny and Charlotte who have bitter memories of the chaos in the city after Katrina.

"Looters will go directly to jail. You will not get a pass this time," Nagin said today at the news conference, in which he also announced a curfew beginng at sundown today. "You will not have a temporary stay in the city. You will go directly to the Big Housein the general population. You will go directly to Angola Prison and God bless you if you go there."

Nagin's warnings today echoed the strong words he had in a press conference Saturday evening, when he tried to convince his citizens who might be too stubborn to evacuate despite warnings and, as of early Sunday morning, mandatory evacuation orders.

"This is going to be the storm of the century," said Nagin, admitting that while he's usually "very calm," this time is different.

"You need to be scared," said Nagin. "This is the mother of all storms, and I'm not sure we've seen anything like this."

In the surrounding states, evacuations were also under way. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley declared a mandatory evacuation for much of the state, and areas of Mississippi and Texas were also preparing to move people north in anticipation of the storm.

Contraflow is in effect in both Louisiana and Mississippi to help last-minute stragglers drive north.

According to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's office, the state was preparing to house the overflow of Louisianans as they head north. Perry estimates that as many as 45,000 evacuees may seek shelter in Texas, many of whom the state plans to fly to northern cities such as San Antonio and Dallas/Fort Worth.

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