An estimated one million people have fled from New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina looms.
Rated now at a maximum category five, the storm is expected to score a direct hit at sunrise on Monday.
Customers filling up at petrols stations are resigned to the inevitable, “I’m worried about it but there’s nothing I can do,” said one man. “I’m just trying to get as far away from here as possible. My family, safety, that’s it,” said another.
Homes, offices and shops across the Big Easy have been boarded up as forecasters warn there will be no escaping severe structural damage.
But some 100,000 residents do not have the means to leave the city. Along with stranded tourists, they are being taken to emergency shelters.
With winds speeds expected to exceed 280 kilometres per hour, Katrina would be the most powerful storm ever to slam into New Orleans.
It has been gathering pace over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The states of Missisippi, Louisiana and Alabama are under threat with hurricane-force winds extending almost 200 kilometres from the eye of the storm.
The last category five to strike the area was Hurricane Camille in 1969. It claimed 250 lives.