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Experts Say Katrina Hit As a Weaker Storm

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Associated Press Writer

December 21, 2005, 10:22 AM EST

MIAMI -- Researchers say Hurricane Katrina was a weaker storm than first thought when it slammed the Gulf Coast, with the strength of a Category 3 storm instead of a Category 4.

New data shows that Katrina's top winds were about 125 mph at landfall, and that New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain were likely spared the storm's strongest winds, according to a report by the National Hurricane Center.

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New Orleans' storm levees were believed to be able to protect the city from the flooding of a Category 3 storm. But portions of the levee system were either topped or failed, leaving up to 80 percent of the city under water.

An investigation into why the system failed is under way. Jim Taylor, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the storm's category downgrade won't affect any proposed changes under debate.

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, said: "This news further highlights the need for a full federal commitment to build the highest level of protection through levees and coastal restoration for New Orleans, South Louisiana and the Gulf Coast."

Katrina's strongest wind and highest storm surge ravaged the Mississippi coast. Measuring the surge's height was difficult because many buildings were washed away, leaving few structures with high water marks, the report said. The best estimate was 27 feet high in Han****, Miss.

Category 3 storms range from 111 mph to 130 mph, so Katrina was on the strong side of that ranking. Category 4 storms run from 131 mph to 155 mph. Katrina was a top-scale Category 5 with 175 mph winds while in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters revised the storm's strength after studying data from devices that were dropped into Katrina from hurricane hunter aircraft, hurricane specialist Richard Knabb and forecasters Jamie Rhome and Daniel Brown said in the center's final report.

The change also came from reviewing readings from a device called a stepped frequency microwave radiometer, which measures wind speed by examining how sea foam is blown. Radar images taken by hurricane hunter aircraft also were used.

Although an accurate reading of the highest winds in the New Orleans area were made difficult by the failure of measuring stations, a NASA facility in eastern New Orleans measured a sustained wind of only about 95 mph, the report said.

It was likely that most of the city experienced winds of Category 1 or 2 strength, a range from 74 mph to 110 mph, the report said, although winds on the upper floors of high-rise buildings could be up to a category higher.

Katrina killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. It is expected to cost insurers at least $34.4 billion in claims.

Associated Press writer Michelle Roberts in New Orleans contributed to this report.

On the Net:

National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov
They can say what they want...my visual memory of Waveland, MS would tell me other wise from the storm surge but what the hell do I know?
you'd be surprised at how the downgrade will affect such things as insurance claims and the like...and the storm surge was definitely that of a cat iv if not a v
I will agree with Phil. I beleive this is for insurance purposes. yes I beleive that the surge was high but looking at the wide spread damage look at Ivan cat 3 at landfall, Dennis cat 3 at land fall Katrina cat 3 at landfall. Katrina did more damage than any of the 3. I would like to know what new data they got since they say that the instruments broke before landfall. According to the dropsponds it was 140 right before landfall. So guess we gonna have to disreguard the info from the planes now? NHC need to get a life. First they have these new forecasters that is still wet behind the ear tring to do a grown mans job. They need to set down and get some training first. Frederick was a low 3 at landfall in 79 and it did more damage than Ivan did. Sure New Orleans and the Lake escaped the brunt. It was well to the East of them so they were on the W side of the eye. Don't take a rocket sientist to figure that out. With the wind and the surge I would not put it nowhere but a cat V.
I wouldn't say Frederick did more damage than Ivan. They were both very close. Ivan destroyed the main I-10 bay bridge through Pensacola for goodness sakes. I've never lived through anything worse than Ivan in my life. Ivan was very nasty and Katrina was even worse. I think the NHC is full of CRAP. Ivan was also a high CAT 3 at landfall with 130mph winds. They are full of it.
"Hurricane Katrina actually weaker than originally thought. Levees magically repair themselves, streets unflood, Heineken bottles fly back on shelves, and the Saints don't suck"
Well what do they put the pressure at then? Cuase they had it as the third strongest to make landfall, 918.

I can't say im super suprised, becuase they discusses this at a forum on the storm I went to at the University. But, idk, this is somewhat ridiculous, ive only heard of raising the strength of a storm, not lowering it. Sound like what yall have said is right, its an insurence trick.

Not to mention, like phil already did, that it had the highest surge ever recorded. That can come from the size and earlier intensity of the storm, but something has still go to be able to keep pushing the water into the land. Therefore, its understandable it wasnt a cat 5 ( even though by pressure it was), but a cat 3?
soonermeteor Wrote:Well what do they put the pressure at then? Cuase they had it as the third strongest to make landfall, 918.

They have it at 902mb.
^ i mean for landfall

New Orleans' storm levees were believed to be able to protect the city from the flooding of a Category 3 storm. But portions of the levee system were either topped or failed, leaving up to 80 percent of the city under water.

Who is writing this tripe? Maybe becuase its storms surge was NOT of a CAT 3 size.
Well the gospel has been spread. Wikipedia has already downgraded Katrina. Its not set in stone though, im sure it will be studied, obivously, a lot more over the years. The thing i do not understand though, is how can they assess Andrew at 175mph when all they have is damage to look at, and then assess katrina when there was no damage becuase when it made landfall it brought half the gulf of mexico with it.
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