Arkansas Prepares for Gustav

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Officials say the state will contribute Arkansas National Guard troops to the preparations for Tropical Storm Gustav, and the state is ready to take in Louisiana residents if an evacuation order is issued.

Fort Chaffee is set to take in up to 4,000 evacuees, and hotels in the southern half of the state have been busy taking reservations from coastal residents. The storm is forecast to make landfall Monday as a hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center projected a track in which Gustav would skirt by Morgan City, Louisiana, just west of New Orleans, and then move northwest toward Lake Charles as a Category 3 storm. The forecast track is approximate; the strength and course of the storm could change.

Forty soldiers from the Arkansas National Guard will be deployed to Louisiana because of Gustav. Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 114th Security and Support of the 77th Aviation Brigade based at Camp Robinson will provide airspace management and command and control of aviation that's used in relief efforts. Four to five airmen with the Arkansas National Guard's 154th Weather Flight will also provide weather briefings and forecasts.

The troops are expected to depart Saturday to a staging area at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, La. The initial deployment is for 30 days.

Three years ago, Arkansas took in thousands of refugees after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)