FEMA awaiting Gustav to grow into Category 5 storm

August 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hurricane Gustav is growing into a monster Category 5 storm, the government's disaster relief chief said Saturday. The storm could reach landfall along the Gulf Coast by early Tuesday. David Paulison, who heads the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters several times at a briefing that the storm was strengthening into a Category 5 hurricane -- a category that means winds greater than 155 mph and a storm surge greater than 18 feet above normal.

FEMA officials said Bill Read, the director of the National Hurricane Center, interrupted an afternoon teleconference involving FEMA, Gulf Coast states and the National Weather Service to say he was going to issue a special advisory statement raising Gustav to Category 5.

"Bill Read got up in the middle of that, interrupted it and said they've just upped the category to a Category 5 storm. That puts a different light on our evacuations and hopefully that will send a very clear message to the people in the Golf Coast to really pay attention," Paulison said.

After Paulison's briefing, hurricane forecasters said the storm still was classified as Category 4 although it was intensifying rapidly. They are predicting it will grow into a Category 5 hurricane by early Sunday.

A FEMA spokesman, Butch Kinerney, also said after the briefing that Read had said he would issue a special advisory statement that would bring Gustav "up to a Category 5 coming off of Cuba," but did not say when that change would happen.


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