Eye of Hurricane Katrina

Most of New Orleans’ 485,000 residents evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina hitting with winds above 165 mph and waves of water swooping in from nearby lakes threatening to inundate the historic coastal city.

Officials are preparing for the worst – much of the city under up to 30 feet of water polluted by toxic chemicals, human waste and coffins unearthed in the city’s legendary cemeteries.



Bread aisle at this Baton Rouge, La., grocery store left virtually empty as area residents rushed to buy supplies in advance of Hurricane Katrina (courtesy: Robert Terrell)

Experts have warned for years that the levees and pumps that usually keep New Orleans dry have no chance against a direct hit by a Category 5 storm.

With the possibility of more than 1 million homeless and total devastation in much of the city, Katrina could produce the nation’s greatest natural disaster ever.

Computer simulations indicate that by tomorrow, vast swaths of New Orleans could be under water up to 30 feet deep. In the French Quarter, the water could reach 20 feet.

Estimates predict that 60 percent to 80 percent of the city’s houses will be destroyed by wind. With the flood damage, most of the people who live in and around New Orleans could be homeless.

“Hurricanes rarely sustain such extreme winds for much time. However we see no obvious large-scale effects to cause a substantial weakening of the system and it is expected that the hurricane will be of Category 4 or 5 intensity when it reaches the coast,” National Hurricane Center meteorologist Richard Pasch said.



The message left Sunday on boarded-up party store reads, ‘The party’s over Katrina. Go home!’ (courtesy: G.J. Charlet III)

Experts have also warned that the ring of high levees around New Orleans, designed to protect the city from floodwaters coming down the Mississippi, will only make things worse in a powerful hurricane. Katrina is expected to push a 28-foot storm surge against the levees.

Even if they hold, water will pour over their tops and begin filling the city with virtually nowhere to go.

It has been 40 years since New Orleans faced a hurricane even comparable to Katrina. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy, a Category 3 storm, submerged some parts of the city to a depth of seven feet.

If disaster does strike at dawn, the rest of the nation won’t escape its effects. Before the hurricane even reached New Orleans this morning, oil prices skyrocketed to new record levels above $70 because 25-30 percent of U.S. oil comes through the area.


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