Katrina makes landfall in Louisiana. She will end up being the costliest hurricane in American history, having done some damage to Florida over the last week before wreaking havoc from Alabama to Texas.
Although Hurricane Katrina later travelled mainly through Mississippi, it began as a Category 1 hurricane on August 25, crossing the southern tip of Florida (raining 14 inches (360 mm) [36 cm]) into the Gulf, where it weakened, then strengthened into a massive Category 5 with 175 mph (280 km/h) sustained winds. Slowly turning north along the eastern coast of Louisiana, at 4 a.m. August 29, sustained winds were 132 mph (211 km/h), 90 miles (114 km) SSE of New Orleans. As Katrina came ashore near Buras, LA at 6:10 CDT, with reported 125 mph (201 km/h) winds (Category 3), it passed 40 miles (64 km) east of New Orleans and headed to the Mississippi state line (mouth of Pearl River, 10 a.m. CDT), with hurricane-force winds travelling up central Mississippi until weakening at Meridian, and entering Tennessee as a tropical storm. Despite the hurricane force centered on Mississippi, neighboring areas were also affected: when New Orleans began slowly flooding with high east/north winds, a 28-foot (9 m) storm surge eastward from Bay St. Louis devastated coastal areas with 30–55 foot (17 m) sea waves, flooding 12 miles (19 km) inland. The waves pushed barges, oil rigs, ships, and debris into submerged towns to flatten many coastal buildings across to Pascagoula with 20-foot (6 m) surge, and into Alabama with 15-foot (5 m) surge and 24-foot (7 m) waves battering beach houses inside Mobile Bay and tilting the battleship USS Alabama. (See extensive details below).
In particular, New Orleans, Louisiana will be mostly destroyed, with 80% or more underwater. Most of the levees protecting the city will break. Media will report unsubstantiated rumors as fact over the next several days. In fact, the Wikipedia article still presents some of the questionable information about evacuees in the Superdome (emphasis mine):
Despite increasingly squalid conditions, the population inside continued to grow. The situation inside the building was described as chaotic; reports of rampant drug use, fights, rape, and filthy living conditions were widespread. At the time, as many as 100 were reported to have died in the Superdome, with most deaths resulting from heat exhaustion, but other reported incidents included an accused rapist who was beaten to death by a crowd and an apparent suicide. Despite these reports, though, the final official death toll was significantly less: six people inside (4 of natural causes, one overdose, and an apparent suicide) and a few more in the general area outside the stadium.
The truth of the matter is that these people should never have been housed in the Superdome, at least not in the significant numbers seen. This problem can be laid entirely at the feet of Mayor Ray Nagin (D-New Orleans). Nagin waited far too long to issue a mandatory evacuation order, and then did not deploy city buses to assist in the evacuation. The situation was exacerbated by Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-LA). Blanco, for her part, was thoroughly unprepared for the strength of the storm (she was hardly alone in that, though), and refused to allow the American Red Cross to enter New Orleans.
The long term effects of Katrina are devastating to New Orleans. The population of New Orleans in 2005 is approximately 455,000. In 2006 it will be 223,000. In 2009, it will be 355,000, still 100,000 short of pre-Katrina levels.
But the effects of Katrina were not limited to New Orleans. Mississippi was also incredibly hard hit.
The Gulf Coast of Mississippi suffered near total devastation from Hurricane Katrina on August 28–29, with hurricane winds, 28-foot (9 m) storm surge, and 55-foot (17 m) sea waves pushing casino barges, boats and debris into towns, and leaving 236 people dead, 67 missing, and an estimated US$125 billion in damages. Since Katrina made landfall below central Mississippi, 30 miles (48 km) east of New Orleans at 6:10 a.m., the storm's powerful, right, front quadrant covered coastal Mississippi and southern Alabama, increasing wind and flood damage. After making initial landfall in Louisiana, four hours later Katrina made another landfall north at the state line (near the mouth of the Pearl River) and passed over submerged towns around Bay St. Louis as a Category 3 hurricane with winds over 120 mph (192 km/h) and 28-foot (9 m) surge. Battered by wind, rain and storm surges, some beachfront neighborhoods were leveled entirely, with flooding 6–12 miles (10–19 km) inland, crossing Interstate-10 (I-10) in some places.