MIAMI, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Gustav, a tropical storm forecast to regain hurricane status, saturated Haiti and battered its coast Wednesday, U.S. forecasters in Miami said.
Gustav, which left at least 22 people dead in its path across Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is still days away from the U.S. Gulf Coast. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a pre-storm state of emergency, mobilizing 3,000 National Guard troops with another 5,000 to be ready if necessary, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.
Jindal also was awaiting a reply to his request for a federal state of emergency. Shelter space was being prepared for 78,000 people and buses were being readied to transport up to 35,000.
"Our state is better prepared that it has been before," Jindal said. "I also want to remind people of their personal responsibility. ... The time has come to get prepared. Don't wait until this Friday when this storm is in the gulf."
Jindal said he was in touch with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who was on his way back to the city from attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
At 8 p.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Gustav was headed westward and had weakened further, though tropical storm warnings remained in effect for Haiti and Jamaica, which also was under a hurricane watch. A hurricane warning was in effect for parts of Cuba and a watch for the rest of the communist island, as well as the Cayman Islands.
The storm was centered about 75 miles west of Guantanamo, Cuba, moving westward about 7 mph with winds having subdued to about 45 mph with higher gusts. It was expected to pass between Jamaica and Cuba Thursday.
Once Gustav moves beyond Haiti it could regain hurricane strength in the next day or two, the hurricane center said.
The storm is expected to drop 6-12 inches over wide areas, with up to 25 inches possible in isolated areas.