Hurricane Katrina, a storm of fearsome proportion and power, is steadily closing the distance between itself and the Gulf Coast of the United States.
The large city of New Orleans, in the southern state of Louisiana, is forecast to take the brunt of the storm when it makes landfall Monday morning. Authorities there have ordered a mandatory evacuation for all residents who are able to leave. They have also opened emergency shelters for people who are unable to get out of town.
At 1800 GMT, the storms maximum winds were in excess of 280 kilometers per hour, making it a rare category five hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Its central pressure continues to fall, indicating that the storm is intensifying. Hurricane force winds extend more than 160 kilometers from the storm's eye. Officials at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say it is among the strongest storms of the past century.