An angry Katrina smashed into New Orleans, angrily bringing 135 mph winds, knocking out power, flooding streets and some houses and — and creating a new crisis by ripping off pieces of the city’s fabled Superdome, where many had fled to be safe from the storm.
But there was a guarded sense of relief: the Category 5 hurricane had been downgraded to Category Three.
A CNN cable news report said some city officials were even considering moving the people inside the Superdome due to fears about the building that supposed to be as solid as a rock. A later report said that would be unlikely due to problems getting people out of there amid the furious storm.
Yet, for all of the storm’s terror, property damage and — in the end — toll on human life, it now seems as if New Orleans has narrowly missed The Big One…a Category Five hurricane that could submerge the below-sea-level city and turn its glories and charms into bittersweet memory.
MSNBC offers some tidbits from the Today Show that underline the drama and dangers:
Resident Chris Robinson said via cellphone from his home east of downtown that â€œIâ€™m not doing too good right now.â€?
â€œThe waterâ€™s rising pretty fast,â€? he added. â€œI got a hammer and an ax and a crowbar, but Iâ€™m holding off on breaking through the roof until the last minute. Tell someone to come get me please. I want to live.â€?
Mayor Ray Nagin earlier told â€œTodayâ€? that some flooding was inevitable after one of the city’s water pumping stations had failed.
At the Superdome, where thousands sought shelter, two holes opened in the roof and rain was leaking in. Officials said the damage was not structural, but NBC’s Brian Williams reported from inside the stadium that conditions were worsening.
â€œThe rain is coming in from many, many places in the roof,â€? he said.
New Orleans is basically a city poised on a natural disaster waiting to happen but — so far, at least — the very worst scenario has not occurred.
What is happening at breakneck pace can be discerned from news reports, resident’s personal weblogs and news chronological weblogs such as WDSU’s here. A few highlights from that:
9:51 a.m.: Hurricane Katrina Downgraded
Hurricane Katrina has now been downgraded to a Category 3 storm, with top winds of 125 mph. The center of hurricane Katrina was located near latitude 30.2 north, longitude 89.6 west. This position is near the mouth of the Pearl River, about 35 miles east-northeast of New Orleans. — National Hurricane Center
9:47 a.m.: Boats In Buildings In Gulfport
In Gulfport, Miss., a fire chief says there are “boats that have gone into buildings.” Waves are also crashing over the seawalls in Gulf Shores, Ala. — Associated Press
9:46 a.m.: Storm Surge Threat Lessens
The National Hurricane Center is downgrading its dire predictions for a massive storm surge. The center’s director says New Orleans could see a 15-foot storm surge — down from a feared 28-foot swell. That would still be enough to cause extensive flooding. The highest storm surge recorded so far was 22 feet in Bay St. Louis. — Associated Press……
9:25 a.m.: East Jefferson Hospital Also Flooding
There are also reports of water on the lower floor of East Jefferson Hospital. The flooding may be related to unconfirmed reports of levee breaks along industrial canals in the area. — WDSU.com Web Staff
Just how horrorific can A BIG hurricane can be is hammered home by the Washington Post which has this piece looking back at 1969’s infamous Hurricane Camille. Among other things, it says:
Those of us who lived though Hurricane Camille will never forget it. Camille struck with the force of several hydrogen bombs, altering forever the topography of the Mississippi coast. Its nearly 200-mph winds and 25-foot storm surge exploded concrete buildings and erased entire communities — then gouged open graveyards and hung corpses in the live oaks like so much Spanish moss. There was a problem for a time telling the storm victims from those already embalmed.
Meanwhile, the LAT Times notes that some people didn’t leave the largely abandoned city — because it looked as if they couldn’t get out anyway. The Times notes that some residents could go to Dallas or elsewhere but others were anchored in New Orleans.(These are folks who’d later be included in the body count if this had been a C5 hurrican as originally expected):
John Higgins was struggling in a different way. The 49-year-old man hobbled through New Orleans as the wind picked up, carrying what he owned â€” a purple comb, a radio and a pack of instant coffee â€” on his back.
The homeless shelter where Higgins usually stayed had closed because of fears that Katrina would destroy it. He had no car, no money and nowhere to go, so he was trying to make his way to the Louisiana Superdome, the downtown arena that had hosted Super Bowls and Bob Hope but was pressed into service as a storm shelter.
According to some experts, depending on how hard it finally hits, 1 million people could be left homeless due to the story. But one of the biggest vulnerabilities for New Orleans that could have a big, fat national impact is on the oil industry:
The equipment located in the storm’s likely path includes the bulk of the nation’s oil and gas production platforms, thousands of miles of pipelines and — perhaps most importantly for national gasoline prices — much of the country’s refinery capacity. In addition, the south Louisiana coastline serves as the entry point for around a third of the nation’s imported oil.
Last year’s Hurricane Ivan, which came ashore along the Alabama-Florida line moving through an area mostly devoid of rigs, caused widespread destruction both above and below water in the fields off Alabama and eastern Louisiana. Floating rigs were found drifting hundreds of miles from the wells they had been plumbing, while some rigs with legs fixed to the bottom toppled into the sea. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pipelines were tangled and torn to pieces by sea currents and massive underwater mudslides.
The full extent of the damage wasn’t known for days and the Gulf lost nearly 30 percent of production capacity for well over a month, which drove prices for oil up $12 a barrel within a few weeks. Prices for both oil and natural gas surged upward and stayed high for months.
So far it doesn’t appear as if that part of the worst-case scenario has materialized, either. But it underscores the need for enhanced protective measures.
Here are a few excerpts from New Orleans and Louisiana-based web logs:
—Harmony St. Charles in a post dated Sunday:
We evacuated first thing this morning and are now at my father-in-laws home in Lacombe. Packed up what we could, boarded the house and left the rest at Katrina’s whim. At the moment I hold no hope of returning to our house or neighborhood for quite some time.
This really may be a life changing event for so many of us here. My heart is truly in tatters at the moment and I feel so drained emotionally it boarders on numb. I’m sure this feeling is not held by myself alone. All that can be done now is to hang tight and see what happens. I really wish I could seem more positive but I can’t. Tommorow, I’ll pull myself up by the ol’ boot straps and do what must be done to go on. Tonight, it’s pity party time.
6am. The alcohol is the only thing that got me any sleep; fell asleep on the sofa in front of the TV and the live net feed from WWL.
It looks like the eye missed us by at least 40 miles, but it’s still going to be bad. It’s weakened to a Category 4, but of course, several of the worst-case scenarios described a Category 3. We had a slight turn to the east, with the eye coming ashore between Gulfport and Biloxi, so the Mississippi Gulf Coast is going to get it worse, but we’re not out of the woods yet by any means. There’s several more hours of this to go.
Shit, the roof of the Superdome is leaking, with rain pouring in. Bill Capo on WWL was debunking reports that 1/12 of the roof had “peeled away” and was gone, but the latest is that there are currently two nine-foot holes in the roof. Just saw the picture … Jesus.
The Coast Guard says they’ve gotten calls from vessels in in Southeast Louisiana as well as people who can’t get through on 911 lines (probably because they’re still down) with reports of people on roofs at Villere and Louisa streets and on Almonaster Drive. Those calls are going to local law enforcement via the Coast Guard because the Coast Guard can’t respond to those calls, yet.
Walter Maestri, the Emergency Management Director for Jeff. Parish, said they still can’t get out to verify reports of flooding. (as of about 8:45 am)
There’s reports of a building collapse on Manhattan Boulevard (West Bank — this area has been built up a lot in just the last two years, no indication what block it might be, but large apartment complexes and retail shopping centers are all along the main stretch between Lapalco and the Expressway) and a roof being blown off an apartment building at S. Judah and Ames Blvd. on the West Bank.