Ike Lashes Cuba, New Orleans in Path

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Hurricane Ike is roaring across Cuba before it heads into the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately, the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Americans from Florida to Texas are being warned they may need to evacuate by the end of this week.

With wind speeds clocking more than 100 miles per hour, Ike pummels its way across Cuba today and tomorrow, likely hitting the capital of Havana head-on.

Taking no chances, an estimated 770,000 Cubans packed their belongings, moved to higher ground and are seeking shelter from the storm's potentially brutal punch.

At least 58 people died after Ike's winds and rain swept through Haiti, raising the country's death toll from four tropical storms to 319 people in less than a month.

Overnight, Hurricane Ike slammed into the eastern coast of Cuba as a strong Category 3 but has weakened since it collided into land.

Forecasters predict the storm could gather strength as it journeys through the warm Gulf waters, with the potential to hit anywhere from Texas to Florida.

"We understand the inconvenience but this one is just too close to say 'hunker down' and we'll be okay," said Roman Gastesi, an administrator for Monroe County, Florida.

Under a hurricane watch, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for the 25,000 residents of the Florida Keys.

"It could become a life-threatening hurricane. We hope it's not. I hope I'm wrong. I hope I get criticized for calling for this evacuation," Monroe County Mayor Mario Di Gennaro said.

But some life-long residents plan to stick it out.

"I think, you'll find the general attitude of most people who've made it through a few is just to lay back and see what happens. We know what to do when it comes," said one Key West resident.

Over the weekend, thousands of New Orleans evacuees finally returned home after taking shelter from Gustav in Texas and Oklahoma.

Just like that storm, Ike's projected path appears to have the Big Easy in its sight.

"I'm worried about Ike because it's too close between this evacuation I think were going to have more challenges evacuating if Ike comes our way than we did with Gustav," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said.

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CBN News
John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Washington Correspondent

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