NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore around 5:30 a.m. and charged toward New Orleans with winds of 145 mph and the threat of a catastrophic storm surge.
Katrina, which weakened to a Category Four storm overnight, edged slightly to the east before making landfall near Grand Isle, providing some hope that the worst of the storm's wrath might not be directed at the vulnerable city. But as meteorologist Eric Blake said, "It will be plenty bad enough." He said Grand Isle is getting significant wind gusts, with the most recent at 90 miles an hour. And, said Blake, they were not even near the strongest part.
Katrina's fury was soon felt at the Louisiana Superdome, normally home of professional football's Saints, which became the shelter of last resort for 9,000 of the area's poor, homeless and frail. Electrical power at the Superdome failed shortly after 5:00 a.m. Emergency generators kicked in, but the backup ower runs only reduced lighting and is not strong enough to run the air conditioning.
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.
Entergy Corporation spokesman Chanel Lagarde says that 370,000 utility customers in southeast Louisiana are estimated to be without power.
Even though the storm was hours away from New Orleans, Katrina's advance winds were already blowing slate tiles off the old roofs of the French Quarter.