Monitoring Katrina's Path North into the U.S.

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Now that Hurricane Katrina has made landfall, scientists at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Maryland are charting the storm's route north and monitoring hazards like flooding.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Hurricane Katrina is moving into Mississippi. Scientists are trying to predict exactly where it's going and how hard it's going to hit. Joining us from Washington is NPR's Richard Harris.

Richard, I heard you earlier on "Morning Edition" laying out what sounded to me to be a pretty dire prediction for not just the damage from the storm, but all the rain that's going to be coming.

RICHARD HARRIS reporting:

Yes, Alex, this is a big one. I mean, before it hit land it was a Category 5, which is so rare that only a couple of them have hit within recent history. And it fortunately tapered down to a Category 4, but was still packing enormous winds and bringing a huge amount of moisture with it. So this is not going to be one of those hurricanes that just sort of peters out when it hits land; anything but that, as matter of fact. It's going to--we'll be hearing about this for a while.

CHADWICK: OK. Well, it came ashore near Grand Isle, Louisiana, this morning. What has happened since then?

HARRIS: Well, it first was heading right for New Orleans, which was a big concern because New Orleans is under sea level, as we've heard, and fortunately, it dodged somewhat off to the east. And so even though it brought a lot of moisture and a storm surge of rising water, it was not the absolute devastating hurricane it could have been for New Orleans, as far as we can tell at this point. And what it has done instead was it brought that huge pile of water into the Mississippi coast and elsewhere along the Gulf and brought in, you know, 20 feet of water, or 15 feet in places, and that created incredible coastal flooding. Plus, it's bringing in tornadoes with it and it's bringing a huge amount of rain that's going to carry all the way up as pit moves north towards Tennessee and Kentucky, and it's going to dump five, 10, 15 inches of rain depending upon the location in the next couple days up there.

CHADWICK: That's what I hadn't thought about, and I started thinking about it when I heard your reports earlier. All that rain is going to come down and then it's going to come right back down toward New Orleans, isn't it? And...

HARRIS: Eventually, absolutely it will. And the only good thing is that this rain will take a day or two to fall out of the sky and then it goes into the rivers and so on, and so it will come down and fill the Mississippi, but fortunately, the projections right now for flooding are that it will not overfill the Mississippi. So New Orleans may not have to worry about that as much as it has to worry about just sort of mopping up from the storm surge and everything else much closer at hand.

CHADWICK: Where do you expect the storm to go in the next 48 hours?

HARRIS: Well, where does the National Weather Service expect it to go, I guess would be the way to put it.

CHADWICK: They might know better than you, but...

HARRIS: Even--that's possible, yes. But it's looking like it's heading pretty well north. It's going to cut acro--pretty well north through Mississippi and Alabama. It'll spread rain as far as Atlanta, and it will end up in the Ohio River Valley and it will continue to dump rain into the Ohio River Valley. So--plus, it'll be packing very significant winds, which is something we don't think about hurricanes doing once they hit land; they tend to peter out very quickly. This one, wind damage may be a real issue for people substantially inland.

CHADWICK: All these things we hear about things blowing around in New Orleans, I guess we'll be hearing about that elsewhere as well.

HARRIS: Yes, indeed.

CHADWICK: NPR's Richard Harris in Washington. Richard, thank you very much.

HARRIS: My pleasure.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. NPR's DAY TO DAY continues.

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