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Katrina makes landfall as a Category 4 hurricane

Hurricane Katrina wobbled slightly in the hours before making landfall Monday, taking a course east of New Orleans and sparing the city the brunt of its stronger eastern quadrant winds.

Streets were flooded, windows blown out and buildings damaged as Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast Monday morning, and was expected to make its way through southern and central Mississippi over the ensuing 24 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.

With heavy rain and winds topping 140 mph, the storm made landfall in

southeastern Louisiana at about 6 a.m. Although the storm had weakened to a Category 2 hurricane by the afternoon, forecasters still warned of maximum sustained winds near 105 mph. Hurricane force winds were expected to extend up to 75 miles from the storm’s center and tropical force winds up to 230 miles.   “New Orleans is scary,” said Larry Jorgensen, executive director of the Louisiana Motorcycle and Marine Trades Association. “I don’t know what’s going on there.”



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Jorgensen, whose office

is in the inland city of Marksville, says he has not been able to contact any New Orleans area marine businesses, but has heard news reports of considerable flooding.

“I guess we have to wait to assess the damage,” says Jorgensen, adding that conventions and shows slated this fall in New Orleans could be disrupted. A boat show is scheduled in November, he says.

An estimated 370,000 homes and businesses in southeast Louisiana were left without power on Monday, according to a news report. New Orleans experienced hurricane-force winds and rain — and parts of the city flooded with 6 to 8 feet of water — but as the day wore on it became apparent the “worse case scenario” forecasters warned of did not occur.

Forecasters initially feared that New Orleans, which mostly sits below sea level and is protected from the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain by a system of levees, storm gates and series of pumping stations, would bear the brunt of the storm.

An estimated 1 million people — out of a metro-area population of about 1.3 million — fled the city Sunday night, a news report says. Nearly 10,000 people took refuge inside the Louisiana Superdome. Hurricane-force winds peeled away part of the white skin that covers the dome and rainwater was reportedly leaking through.

Before the storm touched land, President Bush declared states of emergency in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Hurricane warnings had been posted from Morgan City, La., eastward to the Alabama-Florida state line, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters now say that the Alabama and Mississippi coasts may be hit the hardest. The storm is expected to continue weakening as it travels inland.

Katrina made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane last Thursday in south Florida where as much as 18 inches of rain fell in some areas.

— Jason Fell

and JoAnn Goddard