President Bush on Sunday urged people living in the path of Hurricane Katrina to take the storm extremely seriously and follow orders to evacuate to higher ground.
“We will do everything in our power to help the people in the communities affected by this storm,” Bush said as the hurricane, packing winds up to nearly 175 mph, bore down on a stretch of coastline that included New Orleans, a city sitting below sea level with 485,000 inhabitants.
“We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf Coast communities,” Bush told reporters on his ranch in central Texas.
Bush spoke shortly after New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered an immediate mandatory evacuation for all of New Orleans.
A day after declaring an emergency for Louisiana, Bush declared an emergency for the state of Mississippi. Federal emergency workers were sending water, food and other supplies to staging centers in the Southeast expected to be affected by the powerful storm.
“I urge all citizens to put their own safety and the safety of their families first by moving to safe ground,” Bush said.
In addition to punishing winds, the storm also carried a threat of a massive storm surge.
Bush met briefly with reporters after speaking with federal disaster management officials and with the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
“I want to thank all the folks at the federal level and the state level who have taken this storm seriously,” Bush said.