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KAI RYSSDAL: Tropical Storm Gustav is winding toward the Gulf of Mexico. It’s expected to turn back into a hurricane by tomorrow. Ordinarly a storm like that headed straight for the oil rigs in the Gulf would send prices shooting up. But the White House and the International Energy Agency headed the markets off at the pass today. They said this morning they’ll release emergency stockpiles if needed. That, of course, sent sent crude back down.
Residents of the Gulf Coast are getting ready for the storm, even though we still don’t know exactly where it’s going to hit. Gustav’s on its way as we mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina tomorrow, which is only adding to the stress level in the Gulf states.
We got John Pope on the line earlier today. He’s a reporter with the New Orleans Times-Picayune. I asked him what kinds of preparations he sees being made.
JOHN POPE: Gov. Jindal has already declared a pre-storm state of emergency and he mobilized 3,000 National Guard troops, and with as many as 5,000 possible being called up. And the police chief said that 300 National Guard folks will accompany police to discourage looting. There’ll also be a curfew, once the storm situation comes up. And people who leave their property after curfew will be arrested.
RYSSDAL: What’s your sense? Are people thinking about staying or are they going to take heed of the lessons of history and hit the road?
POPE: In Katrina, one of the big problems was the inability to get out of town. Poor people who had no wheels of their own. So, 17 sites have been set up to pick up these folks. My wife and I have withdrawn money, and we’re going to gas up our cars. People are buying stuff — water, mainly, and non-perishable.
RYSSDAL: Are business folks down there planning on sticking around at least as long as they can to keep selling those supplies?
POPE: That’s the impression I got.
RYSSDAL: FEMA has said that it’s got truckloads of supplies standing by. The American Red Cross is making preparations. Are you seeing any of that in the city proper?
POPE: No. This is a very slow-moving storm that’s really, frankly, exasperating for those of us who live here. And there’s no sense going into disaster mode until there’s a better indication of where the storm’s going. There’s no public panic right now.
RYSSDAL: John Pope at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Mr. Pope, thanks a lot.
POPE: You’re welcome and thank you.
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