[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/31/art.lakecharles.jpg caption="Residents wait on an evacuation bus at the Lake Charles Civic Center."]
CNN Senior Correspondent
Gustav may strike Louisiana with fury, but around Lake Charles, 200 miles West of New Orleans, few residents will be around to witness the storm.
Memories of Hurricane Rita, which hit this region head on three years ago, are turning Calcasieu Parish- population 195,000- into a series of ghost towns.
“We expect 80-85% of the Parish will be out by tonight,” said Jason Barnes,
Calcasieu’s Special Programs Coordinator. A mandatory evacuation went into effect at 12 noon Sunday.
Hospital patients have been airlifted out of state. Twelve-hundred prisoners were bused North this weekend. One, chained and shackled, jumped out of a bus traveling 45 miles-per-hour.
“He didn’t get very far,” said Parish Administrator Mark McMurry.
This afternoon we were among the few traveling East on Interstate 10, as a steady flow of vehicles were Texas-bound.
Wooden planks cover windows at empty strip malls, gas stations and fast food restaurants. Thanks to self-serve, credit card processing pumps, though, you can still fill up at some abandoned stations.
The L’auberge du lac Casino Resort stands virtually empty, closed to the public. Nearby, the Port of Lake Charles is packed with shrimp boats and oil rig vessels that have sought shelter from the full force of the storm in the Gulf.
Tonight we’re staying at a Hamptons Inn overlooking a cemetery, hopefully NOT an indicator of what Gustav will bring.
Filed under: Hurricane Gustav
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