for National Geographic News
Gulf Coast residents from Louisiana to Florida began digging out today from the wreckage of devastating Hurricane Katrina.
The tempest blasted the area Monday with 140 mile-an-hour (225 kilometer-an-hour) winds and the most destructive storm surge in 36 years.
Hurricane Katrina has killed at least 60 people since it struck Florida last week and moved across the Gulf of Mexico to pound Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
"They're still tabulating the numbers," said Steve Rinard, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service station in Lake Charles, Louisiana. "The most costly storm previously was Hurricane Andrew. I'm sure this will likely rank equally or greater than the damage from that hurricane."
Hurricane Andrew inflicted about 25 billion dollars (U.S.) in damages when it struck just south of Miami in August 1992.
Experts say Katrina may surpass even the damage inflicted by Hurricane Camille, a monster storm that struck Mississippi in August 1969 with 185 mile-an-hour (298 kilometer-an-hour) winds and a 25-foot (8-meter) storm surge.
In New Orleans, breaks were reported at several spots in the levees that protect the city from the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Web site for the Louisiana State Police lists dozens of roads and streets that have been closed due to flooding in the countiesknown as parishes in Louisianaaround New Orleans.
In Jefferson Parish, which includes metropolitan New Orleans, all roads have been closed, the state police Web site says. Much of New Orleans is below sea level, so floodwaters will have to be pumped out.
The hurricane's eye came ashore around daybreak Monday morning near the mouth of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans. The storm weakened as it moved northward, but still smashed into the Mississippi coastline with winds of about 125 miles an hour (200 kilometers an hour).
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