Thousands flee Ivan

Even the "best-case" scenario for Ivan's landfall looked devastating by Tuesday night - and the "worst-case" scenarios depicted on national news were downright horrific.


Even the "best-case" scenario for Ivan's landfall looked devastating by Tuesday night - and the "worst-case" scenarios depicted on national news were downright horrific.

More than 1.2 million people poured out of New Orleans on Tuesday as Category 4 Ivan churned through the Gulf. New Orleans is very vulnerable to flooding because it sits below sea level. Worst-case scenarios projected 20 feet of polluted water inundating the city.

The New Orleans mayor's office reported that at least 100,000 in the city rely on public transportation and would have no way to leave. In addition, 10,000 people were in town for conventions, and there was nowhere for many of them to go except high floors in their hotels.

About three-quarters of a million people Florida, Mississippi and Alabama coastline were also told to evacuate. Forecasters said Ivan could bring a storm surge of 10 to 16 feet, topped by large, battering waves.

Ivan will make landfall sometime Thursday somewhere along the Gulf Coast, and could rate anywhere between a Category 3 and Category 5 storm.

Ivan's outer bands of wind and rain could hit the U.S. coastline by Wednesday.

Military bases in the area flew out aircraft, and oil and natural gas companies were evacuating hundreds of workers from offshore rigs in the eastern Gulf.

Hurricane Ivan lashed western Cuba Monday evening, sparing most of the island a direct hit but still bringing damaging wind and 15-foot waves to Cuba's tobacco-producing region - an area still recovering from Hurricane Charley.

Planting doesn't begin until next month.

Only about 10 miles of Cuba's sparsely populated western tip was forecast to suffer Ivan's devastatingly forceful top winds of 160-mph, said forecasters. The wall of Ivan's eye brushed the tip of Cuba at about 6:45 p.m. as it moved through the Yucatan Channel on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm, which has killed at least 68 people in the Caribbean and Venezuela, swamped the Cayman Islands Sunday. Up to 8 feet of water inundated Grand Cayman. Hurricane-force winds extend 105 miles from Ivan's center. Tropical storm-force winds extend another 200 miles.

Although forecasters by Monday morning felt south Florida was no longer threatened, Ivan was expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, nearing parts of Florida's west coast still recovering from Hurricane Charley and threatening to make landfall in the Florida panhandle, Mississippi or Louisiana.

Ivan passed just south of Jamaica Saturday, sparing the island the worst but still bringing hurricane-force wind and rain. Nearly 500,000 people had evacuated coastal communities in anticipation of the storm.

Ivan destroyed or damaged nearly every home in Grenada, some reports said. The storm also brought drenching rain to Haiti's southwest peninsula Thursday. In Barbados, Ivan damaged more than 220 homes.

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