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macon.com MIDDAY UPDATE: Officials may evacuate New Orleans as Gustav nears; Clayton schools to find out about accreditation; Labor Day travel expected to be lower this year

National Guard troops stand ready, batteries and water bottles are selling briskly, and one small-town mayor has spent a sleepless night worrying. The New Orleans area is skittishly watching as a storm marches across the Caribbean on the eve of Hurricane Katrina’s third anniversary.

With forecasters warning that a strengthening Gustav could slam into the Gulf Coast as a major hurricane, a New Orleans still recovering from Hurricane Katrina’s devastating hit drew up evacuation plans.

Taking no chances, city officials began preliminary planning to evacuate and lock down the city in hopes of avoiding the catastrophe that followed Katrina in 2005.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin left the Democratic National Convention in Denver to return home for the preparations. Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency to lay the groundwork for federal assistance, and put 3,000 National Guard troops on standby.

A day after stalling off Haiti’s coast, Gustav was centered about 80 miles east of Kingston, Jamaica, and moving slowly toward the west-southwest near 6 mph at 8 a.m. today. The storm was expected to pass very close to Jamaica later in the day, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Gaining strength over warm Caribbean waters, Gustav was expected to again become a hurricane later today, according to the National Hurricane Center. It said maximum sustained winds rose from about 50 mph to near 70 mph overnight.

- Associated Press

Clayton schools to find out about accreditation

It’s the day of reckoning for the Clayton County school district.

The 50,000-student district is expected to find out today whether it will keep accreditation with the suburban Atlanta-based Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS has scheduled a news conference to make the announcement at 1 p.m.

SACS gave the district until Sept. 1 to address nine mandates outlined in a scathing February report. Clayton County has turned over more than 2,500 pages of evidence to SACS to prove it’s fixing the problems.

A team from SACS visited the district last week.

Clayton County would be only the third district nationally since the 1960s to lose its accreditation and the first in Georgia.

- Associated Press

Labor Day travel expected to be lower this year

Following a trend set during other holiday weekends earlier this year, more people are expected to spend Labor Day weekend close to home.

According to a survey for the American Automobile Association, Labor Day weekend travel is projected to drop 0.9 percent nationally and 0.6 percent in the Southeast.

AAA South spokesman Gregg Laskoski said there’s no doubt high gas prices are a factor.

Travel already dropped over the Memorial Day and July 4 weekends this year.

According to the survey, nearly a million Georgians are likely to travel more than 50 miles from home over the holiday weekend — 811,000 by car and 149,000 by plane.

- Associated Press

WHAT'S COMING UP ON MACON.COM

- We'll update you on the water main break that tied up traffic this morning at a major Warner Robins intersection.

- The Peach County Hospital Authority meets today. We'll let you know what happens.

VISIT US AGAIN SOON

We invite you to check out our Web site again tomorrow for the Midday Update. Monday through Friday, Online Editor Beth MacFadyen will bring you timely information about what Telegraph staffers are working on, plus news we think you need to know immediately. Send feedback to bmacfadyen@macon.com

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