An eerie quiet hung over New Orlean’s normally bustling highways as the city braced for the arrival of hurricane Katrina.
Around a million people have fled the area.
Louisiana and other southern US states have been preparing to be battered by one of the most powerful storms on record.
High winds and heavy squalls have already begun lashing coastal areas.
But experts say much worse is in store with winds up to 250 kilometres per hour expected.
Several roads were turned one-way outbound as people headed for safer ground. The evacuation appears to have gone smoothly with no reports of panic. But what awaits them when they return? Officials have warned that thousands of homes could be destroyed or damaged.
Not everyone has been able or willing to make it out of the city. Tens of thousands of people are expected to take refuge in the Louisana Superdrome sports stadium.
New Orleans is particularly vulnerable as it lies below sea level. With warnings of 9m high sea surges there is the very real prospect the levees which protect it could be breached. The city known as Big Easy has rarely been so tense.