BATON ROUGE, La. – The Gulf Coast watched anxiously as Hurricane Ike trudged toward areas still cleaning up after Gustav.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry put 7,500 National Guard members on standby as the National Hurricane Center warned the storm could make landfall this weekend in the state.
However, storm paths are hard to predict several days in advance, and forecasters said the storm could come ashore anywhere from Louisiana to Mexico.
"While Hurricane Gustav is still fresh on the minds of coastal residents, we must now turn our attention to Hurricane Ike as it poses a potential threat to the Texas coast," said Perry.
In Louisiana, where thousands remain without power after Hurricane Gustav hit last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal urged residents to start stockpiling food, water, batteries and other supplies. The state also was readying shelters and making plans for trains, buses and planes in case a coastal evacuation is called later in the week.
"It is still too early to be evacuating certainly, but it is not too early to be making sure you've got food and water and batteries. It's not too early to be checking your car," Jindal said.
The Federal Emergency Management agency was uncertain about the timing of evacuations along the coast. It would be at least 24 to 48 hours until officials have a clearer picture of Ike's intended path — and officials need to evacuate communities 48 hours before a storm's winds kick up.
"That puts us right in middle of when we should be moving people," Glenn Cannon, FEMA's head of disaster operations, said Monday.
Jindal said he doesn't anticipate the sort of mass evacuations forced by Gustav, which emptied out most of south Louisiana, including the New Orleans area. But even without a direct strike, the state's low-lying parishes could face strong tidal surges, tropical storm winds and heavy rains from the storm.
Florida Keys residents, meanwhile, breathed a sigh of relief that Ike had turned West. A hurricane watch for the island chain was discontinued Monday. Ike is still supposed to deliver heavy rain and wind to the islands and authorities suggested residents who had left stay away until Wednesday.
Many storm-hardened locals just rode out the hype the way they usually do — drinking. Key West residents are a hardy bunch, generations of whom have lived through storms. They typically take a wait-and-see stance.
"Us folks have lived here for years. We worry but we always think it will be OK," said 80-year-old Barbara Kellner while walking her dog. "And we see the weather report today, and it appears it all will be OK."
Businesses were not as cavalier. It was the second time in a month vacationers left en masse.
Tourists also cleared out of the Keys last month ahead of Tropical Storm Fay, and their departure means a hit to the bottom line. Officials estimate tourists spend about $175 a day in the Keys. With some 20,000 having fled for Ike, that's about $3.5 million for each day they're gone.
"I think they called the guns out a little too soon. They killed business," said Deborah Dietrich, the manager of a nearly empty bakery. "Whether we have hurricane ruin or not, there's financial ruin."
Ike roared ashore in eastern Cuba Sunday night as a Category 3 hurricane, blowing homes to rubble and sending waves crashing over apartment buildings. By Monday afternoon when the storm weakened along the country's southern coast, 1.2 million Cubans had evacuated and at least four were dead.
Ike made landfall for a second time in Cuba later Tuesday morning.
At 8 a.m. EDT, Ike was located 40 miles south of Havana and was moving to the west-northwest at 13 mph. It had maximum sustained winds near 80 mph.
Ike was a Category 1 hurricane at 5 a.m. with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph. But forecasters said the hurricane was likely to strengthen when it moved into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.
The storm first slammed into the Turks and Caicos and the southernmost Bahamas islands as a Category 4 hurricane that peeled off roofs and knocked down buildings. It also pelted Haiti, killing at least 61.