Hurricane Katrina continues to wallop Gulf Coast

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MIAMI -- The once extremely powerful Hurricane Katrina continued to wreak havoc on its path through the Gulf Coast states as it stormed its way northward toward the Ohio Valley.

As of the latest advisory, though, Katrina had been downgraded from the Category 4 storm it was at landfall -- with winds near 145 mph -- and measured in as a Category 1 storm with sustained winds near 75 mph at press time.

Katrina made landfall just after 6 a.m. CDT Aug. 29 as a strong Category 4 storm near the bayou town of Buras, La., after spending time the previous day as an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm with maximum wind speeds reaching 175 mph. Katrina first made landfall Aug. 25 near Hallandale, Fla., as a Category 1 storm and regenerated again after traveling over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

After making landfall near Buras, Katrina hit New Orleans Monday morning, pounding the city with 145-mph winds. Windows were blown off the side of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown New Orleans, but all guests had been previously evacuated from the rooms and took shelter in the hotels ballroom. Meanwhile, thousands of residents sought shelter in the Louisiana Superdome, home of the National Football Leagues New Orleans Saints, but the storm tore through its top. According to a Superdome spokesperson, the structure and its temporary residents were in no immediate danger.

Flooding was widespread throughout the region, from Miami/Dade County, Fla., where the storm first hit land, to New Orleans, where parts of Interstate 10 were submerged.

In addition, the storm caused widespread power outages throughout the area, with about 1.3 million people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida without power, according to Associated Press reports.

There have been at least 15 confirmed deaths due to Hurricane Katrina: three in New Orleans during the evacuation of the city; seven in Florida during the first landfall; two in Alabama; and three in Mississippi. Authorities fear many others may be dead or trapped in buildings awaiting rescue.

According to damage estimates, Katrina could become the most expensive storm in U.S. history, costing insurers up to $25 billion, surpassing Hurricane Andrew, which cost insurers $15.5 billion.

To contact the reporters who wrote this article, send e-mail to David Cogswell or TravelWeekly.com managing editor Kimberly Scholz at [email protected] or [email protected].

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