Announcing itself with shrieking, 145-mph winds (233-kph), Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, submerging entire neighborhoods up to their roofs, swamping Mississippi's beachfront casinos and blowing out windows in hospitals and high-rises. At least 55 people were killed, authorities said.
For New Orleans a dangerously vulnerable city because it sits mostly below sea level in a bowl-shaped depression it was not the apocalyptic storm forecasters had feared.
But it was plenty bad on Monday, in New Orleans and elsewhere along the coast, where scores people had to be rescued from rooftops and attics as the floodwaters rose around them. And authorities said the death toll is certain to rise as authorities reach victims in flood-ravaged neighborhoods.
"The state today has suffered a grievous blow," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was quoted as saying by the AP.
In Mississippi's Harrison County, emergency operations center spokesman Jim Pollard said an estimated 50 people were killed by Katrina, with the bulk of the deaths at an apartment complex in Biloxi. Three other people were killed by falling trees in Mississippi and two died in a traffic accident in Alabama, authorities said.
"Some of them, it was their last night on Earth," Terry Ebbert, chief of homeland security for New Orleans, said of people who ignored orders to evacuate the city of 480,000 over the weekend. "That's a hard way to learn a lesson."
"We pray that the loss of life is very limited, but we fear that is not the case," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said.
Katrina knocked out power to more than a million people from Louisiana to the Florida's Panhandle, and authorities said it could be two months before electricity is restored to everyone. Ten major hospitals in New Orleans were running on emergency backup power.
Photo by AP.