Water fills a low area near the Eastside of the Industrial Canal as Hurricane Gustav came through afternoon Sept. 1, 2008, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brian Lawdermilk)
New Orleans evacuees scattered across the country were eager to return home after their city was largely spared by Hurricane Gustav, but Mayor Ray Nagin warned they may have to wait in shelters and motels a few days longer. The city's improved levee system helped avert a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, which flooded most of the city, and officials got an assist from a disorganized and weakened Gustav, which came ashore about 72 miles southwest of the city Monday morning. Eight deaths were attributed to the storm in the U.S. after it killed at least 94 people across the Caribbean. But New Orleans was still a city that took a glancing blow from a hurricane! A mandatory evacuation order and curfew remained in effect. And though few people were left in the city, nearly 80,000 homes remained without power after the storm damaged transmission lines that snapped like rubber bands in the wind and knocked 35 substations out of service. The city's sewer system was damaged, and hospitals were working with skeleton crews on backup power. Drinking water continued to flow in the city and the pumps that keep it dry never shut down, two critical service failings that contributed to Katrina's toll. Gustav was downgraded to a tropical depression early Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. At 5 a.m. EDT, the storm's maximum sustained winds had decreased to near 35 mph, but forecasters issued flood warnings for northern Louisiana and East Texas, where up to 8 inches of rain was expected. The storm's center was located about 135 miles northwest of Lafayette and was moving northwest at about 10 mph.