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Context of '(3:00 pm) August 29, 2005: New Orleans Director of Homeland Security Expects Casualties'

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The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that Katrina, now a Category 2 hurricane, continues to move west-southwest away from Florida, and is expected to gradually turn west on Saturday. Models have now shifted significantly westward. The NHC states that the “projected landfall is still about 72 hours away.” (In fact, Katrina will make landfall in only 55 hours.) The NHC expects that Katrina will strengthen over the next 24 hours, becoming a Category 3—or major—hurricane later today, and may be a Category 4 hurricane at landfall. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 24.8 N, 82.9 W (approximately 70 miles west-northwest of Key West, Florida)
bullet Direction and Speed: West-southwest at near 8 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 100 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 965 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane force winds extend outward from the center up to 25 miles; and tropical storm force winds extend up to 85 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 17 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 16 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 15 percent (National Hurricane Center 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/26/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/26/2005)

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, reports that the latest computer models indicate, “the threat of a strike on New Orleans by Katrina as a major hurricane has grown. The official NHC forecast is now 170 miles west of where it was at 11am, and still is to the east of the consensus model guidance. It would be no surprise if later advisories shift the forecast track even further west and put Katrina over New Orleans. Until Katrina makes its northward turn, I would cast a very doubtful eye on the model predictions of Katrina’s track.” (Masters 8/26/2005)

Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center, warns the Times-Picayune that Hurricane Katrina poses an imminent danger to New Orleans: “The guidance we get and common sense and experience suggests this storm is not done strengthening.… This is really scary. This is not a test, as your governor said earlier today. This is the real thing.” Katrina “is a very, very dangerous hurricane, and capable of causing a lot of damage and loss of life if we’re not careful.” “This thing is like Hurricane Opal,” Mayfield says, referring to the 1995 Category 3 hurricane that hit the Florida panhandle. “We’re seeing 12-foot seas along the Louisiana coast already.” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/27/2005)

By this afternoon, several thousand residents have made their way to the Superdome, many dropped off by city buses that are looping between the dome and the pickup sites throughout the city. Residents with medical illnesses or disabilities are directed to one side of the dome, which is equipped with supplies and medical personnel. The remaining residents pour into the other side. “The people arriving on this side of the building are expected to fend for themselves,” says Terry Ebbert, the city’s Homeland Security Director, although he does notes that the city has water for the evacuees. National Guard soldiers, New Orleans police, and civil sheriff’s deputies patrol the dome. Officials expect that the Superdome’s field will flood, and that it will lose power early tomorrow morning. However, Ebbert says, “I’m not worried about what is tolerable or intolerable. I’m worried about, whether you are alive on Tuesday.” (Filosa 8/29/2005)

More than 4,000 National Guardsmen are mobilizing in Memphis, Tennessee to help police the streets of New Orleans after the storm has passed, according to Terry Ebbert, New Orleans Director of Homeland Security. In the meantime, as the storm approaches, officials are “hunkered down. There is not much we can do tonight,” he says. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005 Sources: Terry Ebbert)

Terry Ebbert, New Orleans Director of Homeland Security, states that he is positive there are casualties resulting from Hurricane Katrina, based on the number of calls to emergency workers from people trapped in trees and attics. According to Ebbert, authorities lost communications with those pleading for help in some cases. “Everybody who had a way or wanted to get out of the way of this storm was able to.” “For some that didn’t, it was their last night on this earth.” Police are fanning out across the city to assess the damage and rescue people where possible. The city also has 100 boats stationed at Jackson Barracks on the Orleans-St. Bernard parish line. According to Ebbert, the Lower 9th Ward, eastern New Orleans, Treme, and Lakeview near a levee breech seem to be the most devastated. Although damage is extensive, Ebbert says that if the storm had passed just 10 miles west of its track, the city would have been inundated with 25 feet of water. (Times-Picayune Blog 8/29/2005)

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