Hurricane

When Hurricane Katrina roared across the Gulf Coast and left ‘water everywhere’

An amphibious vehicle drives through the flooded streets of St. Bernard Parish Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005, near New Orleans.
An amphibious vehicle drives through the flooded streets of St. Bernard Parish Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005, near New Orleans. AP File

Eleven years ago, Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came ashore on the Gulf Coast. The storm devastated areas of New Orleans and the Mississippi coast.

Here is a look back from the pages of the Miami Herald, as chronicled the next day.

Buildings collapsed, floods inundated thousands of homes and shell-shocked, waterlogged residents retreated to wind-blown roofs Monday as one of the most sweeping hurricanes of modern times drilled through the upper Gulf Coast. Authorities blamed Hurricane Katrina for five deaths, two in Alabama and three in Mississippi. The casualty toll was expected to mount as conditions improved and rescue workers reached more areas.

The storm weakened slightly and wobbled toward the east just before reaching land, sparing New Orleans the cataclysmic devastation many had feared. But, most agreed, it was more than bad enough.

"We didn't know if we were going to live, " said Diana Chavez, one of 10,000 people who spent the night at the Superdome, a refuge of last resort and a place that lost part of its roof.

Katrina's core roared very close to the below-sea-level city of 485,000 people, slamming eastern sections with one edge of its destructive eye wall. Winds of 100 mph rocked the area. Its storm surge and torrential rain submerged vast areas, with 40,000 homes flooded in St. Bernard Parish alone.

Moreover, the storm's sphere of misery stretched from Central Louisiana on the west to the Florida Panhandle on the east. It pummeled 270 miles of coastline across four states, striking particularly hard at Gulfport, Miss.

Pat Sullivan, Gulfport's fire chief, said downtown buildings were "imploding" and the business district was largely under water. "It's complete devastation, " he said.

Said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour: "We know some people got trapped and we pray they are OK."

More bad news: Late Monday, the first hard evidence emerged of possible gasoline-supply disruptions. Valero Energy Corp. said its giant St. Charles, La., refinery was flooded, powerless and shut for at least a week.

THE BUILDINGS

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said that at least 20 buildings collapsed, including a small apartment complex. Countless windows shattered in high-rise buildings, the curtains of hotel rooms billowing in the wind.

Flood waters breached at least two of the city's crucial flood-control levees, Nagin said, and three pumps failed. Portions of the historic, tourist-intensive French Quarter were battered, with some chimneys collapsed.

Hours after the storm hit, about 200 people remained atop their roofs in New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward, driven there by 10-foot floods.

By mid-afternoon, with the storm largely passed, Nagin said he was grateful the damage wasn't even worse, but he pleaded with residents not to return prematurely to whatever was left of their homes.

"Please be patient, " he said. "There's nothing for you to come back to right now. There's water everywhere . . ... When are we going to get life back to normal? I don't know."

Triple-digit wind gusts were reported in Mississippi and Alabama. Damage reports mounted throughout the region: swamped bridges, overrun beaches, boats hurled ashore, countless smashed windows and ripped roofs.

The city of Gulfport, 55 miles northeast of New Orleans and nearly under the storm's eye wall, suffered particularly severe blows.

Memorial Hospital and other hospitals sustained heavy damage, sailboats floated in the middle of U.S. 90, and casinos in the area were said to be deeply flooded.

Along the Mississippi coast, a 28-foot storm surge - the wall of water that accompanies the center of a hurricane - knocked homes and other buildings from their foundations. People trapped in attics and roofs begged for rescue but had to wait hours for assistance.

THE FLOOD

Six feet of water blocked Interstate 10 at the Biloxi River and local casinos were flooded. The Hard Rock Casino, scheduled to open next week, was extensively damaged.

In downtown Mobile, Ala., 12 feet of water flooded the convention center, the state docks, the metro jail, which had been evacuated, and dozens of other downtown structures. Whitecaps surged down the appropriately named Water Street.

Emergency workers helped "dozens and dozens" of people who called during the storm to say water was rising into their homes, said Mobile police officer Eric Gallichant. "Unfortunately there were some people it was impossible to get to, " he said.

About 370,000 customers in southeastern Louisiana were without power, along with another 130,000 along the rest of the Gulf Coast.

And, not only before the storm passed but also before its center even arrived, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass said three people were arrested for looting. "I couldn't believe it, " he said in a radio interview.

A relatively small and weak hurricane when it rolled through South Florida late last week and killed nine people, Katrina blossomed into one for the record books after it reached the Gulf of Mexico and turned north.

Its core made landfall almost directly south of New Orleans as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane with 145-mph wind.

It weakened steadily as it moved inland but remained extremely dangerous, according to the National Hurricane Center, which warned of 10 inches of rain over the Ohio Valley and the manifest dangers of inland flooding as far north as Ohio.

'THE WIND IS WHIPPING'

When the storm's center reached land, its hurricane winds of at least 74 mph reached 125 miles from the center and its tropical-storm winds of at least 39 mph stretched 270 miles from the center.

"The wind is whipping now, " Kate Magandy, city editor of the Biloxi Sun Herald, reported at 7:30 a.m. CDT. "The roof on the building is creaking. You can hear the building's joints straining."

She reported that Sullivan, the Gulfport fire chief, successfully rescued a woman and her four children from their apartment after the roof ripped off.

Fewer Hurricanes
This Aug, 31, 2005 file photo shows a man pushing his bicycle through flood waters near the Superdome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina left much of the city under water. Eric Gay AP File

Back in New Orleans, the Hyatt Regency hotel near the Superdome reported windows and doors blown out and the walls buckled on the 22nd floor.

Hundreds of Hyatt guests and storm refugees were evacuated out of their rooms around midnight to a third-floor ballroom. They rested on bedspreads and pillows they dragged down from their hotel rooms. Children cried, dogs barked.

David Hadley, 43, of Chalmette tried to stay in his room.

"The walls were shaking, the lamp was shaking like it was Poltergeist, then the glass on the window started to crack. It made an 'Eeeeh-eeeeh' sound, " Hadley said. "It wasn't nothin' nice. I got outta there."

FLORIDA EFFECT

In Pensacola, the Florida city that last year endured the wrath of Hurricane Ivan, rain and storm surge flooded the historic district and the downtown business district, as well as one mobile-home park and the main highway that runs along the coast.

Gusts to 60 mph were recorded, prompting authorities to shut the Escambia Bay Bridge and the Three Mile Bridge that connects Pensacola with Gulf Breeze.

Elsewhere in the Panhandle, U.S. 98 in Okaloosa County was closed because of flooding, and even the bridge connecting the mainland to St. George Island in Franklin County was shut.

In Pensacola Beach, the storm ruined some of the repair work under way in the wake of Ivan and this year's Hurricane Dennis.

Blue tarps were torn to shreds and construction debris was strewn throughout the area.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer flipped over.

Still, authorities in and around Pensacola expressed a measure of relief.

"We absolutely dodged a tremendous bullet, " said Escambia County Administrator George Touart.

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