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 user 2005-08-29 at 10:02:00 am Views: 88
  • #12793

    Katrina makes landfall, moves north

    Aug. 29, 2005

    NEW ORLEANS – Hurricane
    Katrina turned slightly to the east before slamming ashore early Monday
    with 145-mph winds, providing some hope that the worst of the storm’s
    wrath might not be directed at this vulnerable, below-sea-level city.
    But that was bad news for areas east of New Orleans, especially coastal
    Mississippi and Alabama where storm surges were feared.

    New Orleans already was seeing hurricane-force winds and rain early
    Monday even though the eye of the storm was some 40 miles away. NBC’s
    Carl Quintanilla, riding out the storm at a downtown hotel, said dozens
    of windows had been blown out as the storm moved in.

    The wind was blowing the rain sideways, and debris was carried up more
    than 100 feet. Power was on and off in sections of the city, and
    emergency vehicles patrolled the main streets, their blue and red
    lights flashing.

    Mayor Ray Nagin told NBC’s “Today” show that some flooding was
    inevitable after one of the city’s water pumping stations had failed.

    At the Superdome, where thousands sought shelter, a hole opened in the
    roof and rain was leaking in. A few hours earlier, the power failed,
    triggering groans from the crowd. Emergency generators kicked in, but
    the backup power runs only reduced lighting and is not strong enough to
    run the air conditioning.

    Throughout southeast Louisiana region, some 370,000 homes and businesses were estimated to be without power.

    But New Orleans did get a bit of good news: Katrina was edging slightly
    to the east, which would put the western eyewall — the weaker side of
    the strongest winds — over the city, which lies below sea level.

    “It’s not as bad as the eastern side,” said Eric Blake of the National
    Hurricane Center in Miami. But, he added, “It’ll be plenty bad enough.”

    The eastern side was hitting areas in Mississippi, where parts of
    Highway 90 were under seven feet of water and boats that broke from
    their moorings washed onto the road.

    Most flee New Orleans
    In the New Orleans area, some 1 million people fled their homes Sunday,
    heading out in bumper-to-bumper traffic or huddling in evacuation
    centers like the Superdome for safety. Experts said that by this time
    Tuesday, parts of New Orleans could be under 30 feet of water.

    Nagin said Sunday he believed 80 percent of the city’s 480,000
    residents had heeded an unprecedented mandatory evacuation as Katrina
    threatened to become the most powerful storm ever to slam the city.

    “New Orleans may never be the same,” warned National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield.

    Crude oil futures spiked to more than $70 a barrel for the first time
    Monday as Katrina targeted an area crucial to the country’s energy
    infrastructure, shutting off an estimated 1 million barrels of refining

    U.S. natural gas futures also shot to a record high on Monday, as
    traders feared Katrina would do lasting damage to Gulf of Mexico
    supplies, draining storage tanks and tightening supplies ahead of

    Shelter of last resort
    The Superdome became the shelter of last resort for thousands of the
    area’s poor, homeless and frail. Among those who lined up for blocks as
    National Guardsmen searched them for guns, knives and drugs were
    residents who hobbled to safety on crutches, canes and stretchers.

    “We just took the necessities,” said Michael Skipper, who pulled a
    wagon loaded with bags of clothes and a radio. “The good stuff — the
    television and the furniture — you just have to hope something’s there
    when you get back. If it’s not, you just start over.”

    The head of Jefferson Parish, which includes major suburbs and juts all
    the way to the storm-vulnerable coast, said some residents who stayed
    would be fortunate to survive.

    “I’m expecting that some people who are die-hards will die hard,” said parish council President Aaron Broussard.

    An estimated 1 million of the area’s 1.3 million people were believed
    to have evacuated, emergency officials said. Some 4,000 National
    Guardsmen were mobilized to prevent looting and to help with any needed
    rescues in the New Orleans area.

    The evacuation itself claimed lives. Three New Orleans nursing home
    residents died Sunday after being taken by bus to a Baton Rouge church.
    The cause was likely dehydration.

    Nightmare scenario?
    Having cut across Florida last Friday, Katrina intensified into a
    colossal Category 5 over the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico on
    Sunday, reaching top winds of 175 mph before weakening to 145 mph as it
    made landfall at 7:10 a.m. ET south of Buras, La. The storm was
    downgraded slightly to a Category 4 shortly after 3 a.m.

    At 9 a.m. ET, Katrina was down to 135 mph and 40 miles southeast of New
    Orleans, moving north at 15 mph. Hurricane force winds extend outward
    125 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend up to
    230 miles.

    The storm held a potential surge of 18 to 22 feet that would easily top
    New Orleans’ hurricane protection levees, as well as bigger waves and
    as much as 15 inches of rain.

    For years, forecasters have warned of the nightmare scenario a big
    storm could bring to New Orleans, a bowl of a city that’s up to 10 feet
    below sea level in spots and dependent on a network of levees, canals
    and pumps to keep dry from the Mississippi River on one side, Lake
    Pontchartrain on the other.

    The fear is that flooding could overrun the levees and turn New Orleans
    into a toxic lake filled with chemicals and petroleum from refineries,
    as well as waste from ruined septic systems.

    Nagin said he expected the pumping system to fail during the height of
    the storm. The mayor said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was standing
    by to get the system running, but water levels must fall first.

    “We are facing a storm that most of us have long feared,” he said Sunday. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

    New Orleans has not taken a direct hit from a hurricane since Betsy in
    1965, when an 8- to 10-foot storm surge submerged parts of the city in
    seven feet of water. Betsy, a Category 3 storm, was blamed for 74
    deaths in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.

    Katrina hit the southern tip of Florida as a much weaker storm Thursday
    and was blamed for nine deaths. It left miles of streets and homes
    flooded and knocked out power to about 1.45 million customers. It was
    the sixth hurricane to hit Florida in just over a year.