Early Morning Katrina Live Blog

5:30 am: We’re up anyway, and that pulsing hurricane weather-pattern graphic is sort of mesmerizing. Plus Anderson‘s out in Baton Rouge in a bright red CNN windbreaker. Aw, it hasn’t even started raining. No falling signs like last time, please, Lord, we just want to see him a little wet.

5:45: Miles O’Brien, this isn’t half as fun as going into space woulda been, huh? Not surprisingly, Miles isn’t quite as nattily dressed as Anderson. The brown-on-brown is a litte drab. Miles seems to be anchoring the hurricane coverage from the field.

Miles: “We’re here on the campus of Louisiana State University – students have had classes dismissed so behind some of these walls there’s probably a pretty good party going on right now, but this is not a laughing matter.” He then awkwardly talks about how much the people of New Orleans like to party. Just stop, Miles. Wow, I can totally picture Anderson in Mardi Gras beads. And earning them.

Mostly, though, the coverage has been about fleeing, and waiting: the thousands of people shacking up in the Louisiana Superdome, the anchors from all the networks dotting the region from Baton Rouge to Mobile to New Orleans to Covington to Biloxi, to the empty bridges and packed highways out of town, and to filling airtime with multicolored weather schematics and various experts and descriptions of what’s to come.

70% of New Orleans is below sea level. Not so good.

Apparently they’re pretty chill in the New Orleans Hyatt – blankets in the ballroom, happily signing waivers releasing the hotel from liability. The guests are there because they’re not keen on the Superdome. Apparently it was a bit of a nightmare when they last used it as a shelter in 1999 – looting and what not. A woman named Susan is reporting, sounds like she’s a New Orleans native.

Carol (to Anderson -we’re back to Anderson): “How are you keeping safe on the banks of the Mississippi?” Anderson (as if on cue, loses footing and almost wipes out): “Whoa! I was literally sinking there…I was actually sinking there for a second. (beat) You know, it’s very safe here.” Anderson puts on a brave face. “You know, the water…it’s really not that bad.” Anderson is hopeful that Baton Rouge is going to be in the eye and won’t be too battered; Carol tells him to be mindful of flying debris, perhaps remembering all to well his narrow brush with a flying Ramada sign during Dennis. Relive the moment here.

5:50ish: John Zarrella is on the phone from downtown New Orleans: Sheets of rain starting to slice down in the French Quarter; American Flags being whipped around.Storm’s a-comin’.

6:00 am: Carol out, Soledad in. O’Brien to O’Brien, she talks to Miles. Aw.

Miles: “There is good news to report – maybe a slight shift to the east – still, a very strong storm, headed right for a very low-lying susceptible city.” Next Soledad is talking to Richard Knabb of the National Hurricane Center. Not a guy I’d describe as super animated.

6:22: Miles is going to tell us exactly how a “toxic gumbo” is about to be created after these messages. I find Creole food a mite spicy but this is ridiculous. Oh, awful: Miles says there will be a mix of petrochemicals and “thing that go along with an industrial base, and to top it all off: floating coffins, no less.”

6:30: Miles is telling us about Category 4 and 5 storms: Category 4 storms have winds in excess of 130 miles/hour and Category 5 storms go from 155 miles/hour and – gulp – beyond. Only three times in US history – in 1935 an unnamed storm that hit the Keys; in 1969 Camille, which struck the Mississippi area but missed New Orleans; and in 1992 Hurricane Andrew. Right now, Katrina is a Category 4.

6:35: Miles has switched ballcaps to a navy CNN cap with a bright red logo. Spiffier than what he had before.

6:41: CNN informs us that it’s our hurricane headquarters.
6:43: Commercial; switch to Fox. Yikes, looks like i might break up soon; the feed is spotty. Pan to palm trees blowing. Orlando Salinas that a mandatory curfew will be imposed starting at 6am Central Time.

6:48: Back to CNN, and a good-looking man in a red windbreaker: Anderson? No, it’s someone I don’t recognize, but boy does he look like Ricky Martin: it’s Rob Marciano reporting from a street in Biloxi: “We still have power in this area but we don’t expect that to hold out too much longer” – less than a minute later, the power goes out as the wind gusts up and blows off his hat, revealing a finely-shaped skull. I’m sorry, this guy knocks Anderson clear off the map. He says they’re 5 hours from landfall, and honestly he doesn’t look happy, even if he does look good.

7:06: Apparently the power went out in the Superdome; no A/C, approximately 9,000 people in there. Not good.

7:12: According to CNN, the hurricane has made landfall by the mouth of the Mississippi. Soledad: Are we still talking ‘catastrophic?’ Expert says that it’s likely, unfortunately; it’s made landfall at a juncture which could swell the storm. There are still hours to go before it truly hits. Uh. oh.

We’ve been watching CNN (mostly) live – also check out Hurricane Katrina coverage at TVNewser which is far more extensive than what we have here. We hope that everyone stays as safe as possible.