The few who stayed in New Orleans woke at dawn to slashing rain being driven through the city by winds of up to 67 mph and gusts up to 86 mph, making it difficult for a person to stand. Palm trees and street lights flailed in the wind. A billboard on Central Avenue was shredded.
In the French Quarter, the sound of windows popping was constant. Signs were smashed and dangling askew. A lamppost was toppled and a building's marquee collapsed.
Several hospitals were reportedly working off generators because they lost power. Despite the outages, the city's 23 massive drainage pumps continued to work.
At Tulane Medical Center, which took in 150 people for treatment on the night Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, there were just 60 patients at the hospital. Officials said one baby was born last night.
Over 9,000 nursing home residents and hospital patients, some critically ill, were evacuated over the weekend, said Rear Adm. W. Craig Vanderwagen, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department for Health and Human Services.
Gustav was the latest in what appears to be shaping up as a busy season of tropical storms. The storm was preceded by Fay, which never became strong enough to be classified as a hurricane, but killed 95 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic before crisscrossing Florida a record four times and killing 11 more people with its drenching downpours.
On the horizon is Hanna. The tropical storm was upgraded to hurricane status today as it battered the Turks and Caicos chain of islands.
"Right now, the uncertainty is such that it could hit anywhere from Miami to the outer banks of North Carolina," said Jessica Schauer Clark, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center. "So, people really need to keep an eye on it."
The Associated Press and ABC News reporters Scott Mayerowitz, Eileen Murphy, Russell Goldman, Yunji de Nies, Marcus Baram and Dean Schabner contributed to this report