Hurricane Katrina comes ashore

And she looks like one nasty, nasty witch of a storm. For all those who are in the afflicted areas—including my friend's brother, a local pastor who stayed to help with relief efforts—stay safe and know that our thoughts are with you.

Some sites for more info:

New Orleans hurricane updates

Link to meetings & conventions scheduled for New Orleans for the rest of the year

New Orleans MetroBlog (local residents reporting their experiences)

Update on Marriotts in the area

If this is as bad as some are predicting, one of the U.S.'s premier meeting cities could be rendered uninhabitable for quite a while. From an AP story:

    As Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Monday, experts said it could turn one of America's most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city's legendary cemeteries.

    Experts have warned for years that the levees and pumps that usually keep New Orleans dry have no chance against a direct hit by a Category 5 storm.

    That's exactly what Katrina was as it churned toward the city. With top winds of 160 mph and the power to lift sea level by as much as 28 feet above normal, the storm threatened an environmental disaster of biblical proportions, one that could leave more than 1 million people homeless.

    "All indications are that this is absolutely worst-case scenario,'' Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, said Sunday afternoon.

    The center's latest computer simulations indicate that by Tuesday, vast swaths of New Orleans could be under water up to 30 feet deep. In the French Quarter, the water could reach 20 feet, easily submerging the district's iconic cast-iron balconies and bars.

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