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‘The sky is a debris field'

NBC News correspondents from New Orleans to Biloxi report on Hurricane Katrina as the storm comes raging through the Gulf States of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
/ Source: NBC News

Janet Shamlian: No relief in Baton Rouge

A sense of relief?  You won't find it here. 

Louisiana may be have been spared catastrophic devastation, but there's no doubt, Katrina took her toll. 

At the state's emergency preparedness center in Baton Rouge, there's an unspoken question: Did anyone lose their life? It's one they can't answer, yet. 

State police huddled in one corner talking about when they can get helicopters in the air. Meanwhile, Louisiana's Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco was a few feet away, talking to troopers about turning any residents trying to drive back into hard hit areas. "What would they do for food and water?" she asked no one in particular.

Louisiana Department of Education officials are trying to get information about damaged schools. Another worker was organizing search and rescue teams. Yet another has a running list of people stranded on roofs. It exceeded one hundred. 

"Do you feel like Louisiana was spared the worst of it?" a reporter asked a national guardsman. "We don't know what the worst is right now," was the response.  

Reported at 3:30 p.m. ET by NBC News Correspondent Janet Shamlian from Baton Rouge, La.

Ron Blome: Mobile gets off pretty easy

The storm surge here seems to have peaked at approximately 12 feet. The storm surge has not spread into downtown Mobile as far as it was feared it would. However, the post office is flooded, the train station is surrounded by water, and the federal court house had water as well.

It’s definitely too dangerous to be out walking around, with wind gusts still blowing.

But, the situation is not as dire as authorities thought it would be. The flooding is comparable to what they've experienced here in the past. So far, no injuries or serious incidents have been reported.

There are approximately 60,000 people without power. The population of the mandatory evacuation zone is about 23,000 people, and although not everyone left, the shelters are filled to capacity.  

All in all, it appears that Mobile got off pretty light this time.

Reported at 2:45 p.m. ET by NBC News Correspondent Ron Blome from Mobile, Ala. 


Heather Allan: ‘Very rough ride’

It's been a "very rough ride.” At this point, it's "raining harder inside the Superdome than outside." 

The 10,000 people inside the Superdome have already been moved four times. 

There are still no updates for the people inside because there is no coordinated public announcement system. They are in the dark about what's going on outside and they have been asking us for updates on what’s going on with the storm.

Reported at 2:15 p.m. ET by NBC News Coordinating Producer Heather Allan from the New Orleans Superdome.


Brian Williams: Superdome makes it

There are holes in the roof of the New Orleans Superdome in an estimated 60 different spots. The turf on the field is wet and soggy and the air is thick with water vapor. But, the most important thing is that the superdome made it through the storm. 

There are gaping holes, but officials do not believe that Superdome in danger of going away, falling apart. 

The biggest problem is that there is no public announcement system, so there is no way to disseminate information, and there are very few radios and televisions. 

Although people can sense that storm is dying out, they don't know that New Orleans dodged a major bullet. 

This is the greatest test this structure will ever have. Three roof vents blew out. Tiny spots would open up and the water coming through would be like a "common garden hose.”

Reported at 12:10 p.m. ET by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams from the New Orleans Superdome. Check out the Daily Nightly blog for more from New Orleans.


Jeff Ranieri: Trees ‘snapping in half' in Biloxi

The winds in Biloxi are getting more erratic. They are expecting about another hour of high winds. The eye of the storm is very close. 

Trees are "bending over, snapping in half” and there appear to be “sheets of rain" coming down.

There is no electricity. The hallway carpet has come up and is "floating if you're not walking on it." 

If you go into a room with a closed window it looks like air conditioning is on because the curtain is coming up. 

Reported at 12:40 p.m. ET by NBC Weather Plus Reporter Jeff Ranieri from Biloxi, Miss.  


Jeff Ranieri: ‘Touch and go' in Biloxi

Things are "touch and go" in Biloxi, Miss., and "the sky is a debris-field.”

Tiles are being ripped off roof tops. At the Wingate Inn in Biloxi, structural damage is visible. Some of the beams are starting to poke through and there is so much air coming through the south side of building that it's as if the air conditioning is on. Road signs on the interstate are now in pieces. 

The rainfall is currently letting up a little bit, but we are hearing that Highway 90 has 9 feet of water.

Reported at 12:05 p.m. ET by NBC Weather Plus Reporter Jeff Ranieri from Biloxi, Miss.

Carl Quintanilla: Windows blown out in New Orleans

There is quite a bit of visible damage in New Orleans with the windows blown out of a number of buildings. With the windows gone from buildings, one could see the insulation of buildings peeling off "like cotton candy.”

From what can be seen at the moment, it appears that the story in New Orleans at the end of the day will be about the debris – insulations and glass littering the street. Flooding does not appear to be as severe as expected at the moment. It "does not appear to be the complete washout that was expected."

Reported at 12:00 p.m. ET by NBC News Correspondent Carl Quintanilla, staked outside the Hyatt Regency in downtown New Orleans.


Mark Potter: Eye of the storm 

Hurricane Center Officials say “ground zero” for the eye of Hurricane Katrina was between Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian in Mississippi. 

That is roughly the same area where Hurricane Camille came ashore in 1969.

Reported at 11:00 a.m. ET by NBC News Correspondent Mark Potter at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla.


Scott Foster: National Guard in Gulf States

According to the Department of Defense, while many National Guard soldiers are deployed in Iraq, there are significant numbers of available soldiers in each of the states affected by the hurricane.

Pentagon officials provided the following numbers in terms of troop availability by state: in Louisiana, 65 percent or 6,500 soldiers; in Mississippi, 60 percent or 7,000 soldiers; in Alabama, 77 percent or 9,900 soldiers, and in Florida, 74 percent, or 8,200 soldiers.

Those figures are what's available should governors need additional troops — at the present time 5,200 National Guard soldiers from those four states have deployed. A majority of those troops, 3,600, are deployed in Louisiana.

Those troops will be tasked with relief operations including patient movement, food distribution, search and rescue, and medical support when needed.

Reported at 11:45 a.m. ET by NBC News Producer Scott Foster from the Pentagon.