As Gustav drifted away from Haiti late Wednesday, evacuation plans and emergency disaster programs were being readied in Cuba, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean; on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico; and along the U.S. Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to Texas.
Gustav was forecast to become a dangerously powerful hurricane over the next few days, and computer models indicated that a likely track could be New Orleans, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said evacuations could begin on Friday if necessary -- three years to the day that Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
Jindal put the Louisiana National Guard on alert and said a state of emergency could be declared as early as Thursday.
On its course, Gustav killed at least 22 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, most as the result of drownings and mudslides.