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The Final report from the National Hurricane Center on Hurricane Katrina has been issued.

The highlights on Hurricane Katrina are as follows:

1. Hurricane Katrina was a category three (3) storm when it made its closest approach to New Orleans, although it had been a category five (5) storm previously.

2. "The strongest winds corresponding to that [Category 3] intensity were likely present only over water to the east of the eye." This means that the category 3 winds were well east of New Orleans.

3. "The sustained winds over all of metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain likely remained weaker than Category 3 strength." New Orleans was experiencing a Category 2 hurricane. A majority of the damage was due to flooding, not winds. Flooding was caused by political failures in terms of 40-50 years of neglect and political games.

4. Surge was signficant and pentrated miles inland along bays and rivers. In some cases up to 12 miles inland. It was worse east of the eye, but still significant to the west of the eye - e.g. in the New Orleans area.

The facts on Katrina and Wilma should illustrate several important points that must be remembered.

a. Storm strength can change quickly. In 24 hours Hurricane Wilma went from a small tropical storm to the most powerful hurricane (measured by low central pressure) ever measured in the Atlantic Basin (to that point). Likewise Hurricane Katrina strengthened rapidly.

b. There is no such thing as "only a Category 1 or 2" hurricane - let alone "only category 3." When both Hurricane Wilma and Hurricane Katrina made landfall neither was a Category 4 or 5 storm and New Orleans only experienced Category 2 force winds. In both cases the damage was significant. Much damage was due to neglect of flood control systems over 40 years due to political neglect and political game playing.

In short, there is no such thing as a minor hurricane. Evacuation is always your safest option - get out of the path of the storm. Following hurricane preparation guidelines - for water, food, yard etc. Too often we hear people blaming others for their own failure to prepare. Your own safety is your own responsibility first. Simple steps will help you to ensure that you do remain safe, but they do require planning.

Likewise, when the City, State, and Federal governments are assuring you that levees (or buildings or any structure) can survive a category 3 (or higher) storm do not always believe them. The National Hurricane Center will provide extremely accurate facts and information. However, politicians will use that information for their own political gain - look at the Hurricane Katrina hearings and the finger pointing in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. Politicians who are quick to assign blame to anyone they can in order to cover themselves are people to whom you should not look to for advice. They'll take credit when they can, and deflect blame for everything else. No one who behaves that way is a leader, they are a disgrace.

Christian H F Riley

You can read the entire Hurricane Katrina report on the web.

You can read the entire Hurricane Wilma report on the web.

A great satellite image of Katrina

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