ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast this morning with winds up to 145 miles per hour. The Category 4 storm turned east just before landfall, sparing New Orleans from a direct hit. But there was considerable damage, flooding and also power outages along the Gulf Coast into Mississippi and Alabama. US Senator Mary Landrieu spent the day at Louisiana's Hurricane Command Center in Baton Rouge, where damage reports were coming in.
Senator MARY LANDRIEU (Democrat, Louisiana): Right now as the winds subside, the rescue teams are getting ready to basically go out in assessment teams now that the worst of the storm has passed. First, try to rescue people that need to be attended to and get them to safety, and then check the integrity of the bridges before people can come back to Louisiana. So our governor, Governor Blanco, said this morning please--for people not to come back. First of all, there's no electricity throughout the whole metropolitan area and in south Louisiana. We don't know if the bridges are safe. We do know that there's a lot of water on the interstates, and the state troopers have said that people will be turned away if they try to come back. So we're still in that mode, and then FEMA will step in and the Red Cross and start rebuilding again.
BLOCK: FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Sen. LANDRIEU: Yes.
BLOCK: Yeah. You mentioned attempts to rescue people. Have there been calls coming in then of people who are trapped and need help?
Sen. LANDRIEU: Yes, there are. There were over a hundred calls that came from Orleans Parish alone.
BLOCK: Where is Orleans Parish?
Sen. LANDRIEU: Almost the southernmost part of Louisiana.
But just to give you some sense, this storm has really hit the whole Gulf Coast region pretty tough, to Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. And as the storm continues to move north, it will, even with the winds diminished, create a lot of damage as it goes north.
BLOCK: How will that search and rescue effort be carried out?
Sen. LANDRIEU: It's being carried out by a combination of basically every local, state and federal agency that's able to, any state agency--and we have many--that have assets--helicopters, boats, etc. We don't know. It could be hundreds of people stranded, it could be thousands. We don't know that yet. We know that we've gotten over a hundred calls to the headquarters of people looking for help.
BLOCK: And what was the nature of those calls coming in?
Sen. LANDRIEU: It was just people who were, you know, stuck on the second floors of their houses, you know, reports of people in attics or second stories. Some of the local officials that were there trying to keep everything safe had some fairly serious damage to the building that they were in.
BLOCK: What's your understanding of the levees around Lake Pontchartrain, around New Orleans?
Sen. LANDRIEU: We have reports that some of the levees have either been breached or the water has come over the levees. Now again, the storm did not hit New Orleans directly and, in fact, spared a little bit because of its turn towards the east. But having said that, there's still a tremendous amount of water from the first images that we're able to receive, which is just in the last hour, of levels of water in and around the city. Now Plaquemine Parish, St. Bernard Parish have been very hard hit. Areas of Lakeview and New Orleans East have substantial water in them that we know of; downtown has been hit. The levels of water don't seem that high in the central business district and the French Quarter, but of course, our assessment teams haven't gotten there yet.
BLOCK: Senator Landrieu, thanks very much.
Sen. LANDRIEU: Great. Thank you.
BLOCK: Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, speaking with us from Baton Rouge.
MELISSA BLOCK (Host): I'm Melissa Block.
SIEGEL: And I'm Robert Siegel. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.