August 31st, 2008
11:14 PM ET

Gustav Ghost Towns

[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."]

Allan Chernoff
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
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    How did a prisoner who was chained and shackled get to a place where he could jump out? Sounds like jumping out at 45 mph would cause him to be injured too – I'm sure he didn't get very far but did he get hurt? He either is terribly desperate or is the shortest pencil in the box.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 1, 2008 at 8:13 am |
  2. mary ann

    The news coverage in louisiana is great but what about mississippi, alabama and texas,.. I don't think they got adequate news coverage for those other area and cities during Katrina and I hope that those other areas get coverage and assistance during Hurricane Gustov

    September 1, 2008 at 2:16 am |
  3. jpd

    Here we go Again!!! lets just hope everything goes as smoothly as possible, and not turn out like the last storm that tore through. KATRINA! (It pains my fingers typing it)

    September 1, 2008 at 1:56 am |
  4. Brandi Henry

    thank you for posting about lake charles and calcasieu parish. a southwest louisiana native now living in portland, oregon, i have been watching and listening, finding it rather frustrating that the media coverage isn't extending west along the louisiana gulf coast. hurricane rita ravaged and, in some cases, destroyed southwestern parishes three years ago... unfortunately these areas were overshadowed by the devastation and despair left in the wake of katrina. it would be nice if the rest of the united states –and perhaps the world– could see and hear more about louisiana's other peoples and their respective plight.

    although the majority of my loved ones have evacuated, there are still those that decided to stay put (at least for now) and those whose jobs required them to stick it out sans friends & family. our hearts and heads are with these people as we hurry up and wait...

    thank you for putting yourselves in harm's way to bring us breaking news. it means so much. sending our love & support to you and yours from the pacific northwest, brandi henry and family

    September 1, 2008 at 1:27 am |
  5. pat gurns

    Where did the 1.9 million evacuees go?

    August 31, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  6. Fedner

    had it been any other city in Florida or North Carolina instead of New Orleans, LA. Do you think president bush still miss the convention?

    August 31, 2008 at 11:25 pm |