The governor of the southern U.S. state of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, has declared a state of emergency as weather forecasters warn Tropical Storm Gustav will head for the Gulf Coast.
Forecasters said Thursday that Gustav could strengthen to a category three hurricane with winds of 180 kilometers per hour in the next several days. The National Hurricane Center predicts the storm to hit between the state of Texas and the state of Florida Tuesday morning.
Friday is the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans, killing hundreds and causing more than $100 billion in damage.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff headed for Louisiana this afternoon. He said federal and state authorities have used the three years since Katrina to strengthen the levees and develop a reliable emergency response plan.
Evacuations of the elderly and bed-ridden from New Orleans could begin as early as Friday.
If Gustav strengthens to a category three or more, officials will order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans 60 hours before predicted landfall. Officials say there are plans to evacuate 30,000 people by bus and train.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin cut short his attendance at this week's Democratic National Convention in the city of Denver, Colorado to return home and work on storm preparations.
Governor Jindal is scheduled to attend the Republican National Convention in the state of Minnesota next week but his office says he will not make a final decision on his plans until more information on Gustav becomes available.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.