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Category 3 Katrina pounding Gulf coast
Katrina has spared New Orleans a direct hit. Although the damage will be incredible, it could have been much, much worse. At 10am CDT the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina moved ashore along the Louisiana-Mississippi border between New Orleans and Gulfport, almost the exact spot Hurricane Camille devastated in 1969. The worst of Katrina is now being experienced everywhere along the coast. The National Weather Service is reporting that the levees in Orleans and St Bernard parishes have been overtopped by the storm surge, and there are reports of life-threatening flooding, roof damage, and building collapses in the city. However, the storm's passage to the east of the city means that New Orleans has escaped the catastrophic blow a direct hit would have delivered, and heavy loss of life is not expected in New Orleans.
Bay Saint Louis, Biloxi, and Gulfport Mississippi will take the full force of Katrina's right eyewall, and a storm surge of 15-20 feet is likely along the west and central Mississippi coast. Katrina will continue to weaken as she interacts with land, but will maintain hurricane intensity until about midnight tonight, when she will be nearly 200 miles inland. Tornado warnings have been issued for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida in the past hour, and tornadoes will continue to be a serious threat throughout the day. Heavy rains will also be a major problem, and rainfall amounts of 8 inches have already occurred near the Louisiana-Mississippi border.
As of 11am EDT, communications with four National Weather Service offices have failed. No radar information is available from the NWS offices in New Orleans and Lake Charles in Louisiana, and Jackson in Mississippi. The NWS offices are still able to send out warnings and forecasts.
Now that Katrina is moving ashore, the Hurricane Hunters have flown their final flight into the storm. A special thanks need to be given to the Air Force Hurricane Hunters based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, who have flown Katrina around the clock while their families remained on the ground in Biloxi. Biloxi will suffer Katrina's harshest blow, and many of the Hurricane Hunters will see their homes destroyed or heavily damaged.
Dr. Jeff Masters
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.